Like so many parents, I’ve spent my share of time worrying about my kids’ safety. Thankfully most of the time, I think about their safety abstractly. That is, nothing (knock wood) has happened for me to sense that they were not safe at a given moment. But what if? What would they do in particular situations?
For example, my daughter, at five, is never out of my sight. But what if she did get separated from me? Would she know even the basics? Would she know how to contact us? While we have family rules about staying close, being aware and traveling in multiples, we also need to teach our younger children some basic contact information – and the right time to reveal it. For older kids, the information gets more complex and situational, but it’s still important to clarify it as much as possible.
Start with the basics
For a couple of years now, I’ve taken the opportunity of longer car rides to review safety information. I’ve tried to keep the information age appropriate, starting with basic contact information when the kids are young. At the outset, I teach them – and quiz them – on my name, their father’s name, a couple phone numbers, a secondary contact person, and how to call 911. I also review the kind of person to look to for help if they do get separated from me (a “mom”, a person who works wherever we are and/or a uniform).Once that information is set in their brains (and quizzed regularly to be sure it’s still there), I move on to other safety topics. What would they do if someone they were with were sick or injured? How about an unsafe situation at a friend’s house? Things like that. It’s a little role playing, a little problem solving, and a lot of safety information.
Adapt for age
Of course, what is right to talk about with a 13-year-old is not quite right for a 9- year- old or 5- year- old. I try to adapt the conversation for age and relative experiences. While for Sunshine we review phone numbers and such, for Alfs, the review includes what to do if risky behaviors are present. When the conversations come to this level, I usually try to find one-on-one time to address them.Sometimes the kids don’t even realize that I’m doing this safety quiz thing. If we’re already talking about a particular friend or situation, I’ll try to ask a safety question specific to that situation.
Try to keep it quick and light
No matter which child I am quizzing, I try to keep the questions quick and keep a light tone – even though it’s a very serious topic. I don’t want the subject to be onerous, and I’m not trying to scare the kids. I do want them to be prepared as much as they can be in many situations; I want them to be able to help themselves.All of this is, of course, information I hope that they never need. But if they do, we’ve presented it, and I’ll feel more hopeful for the possible outcomes.