It feels like summer just started but soon enough our kids will be heading off to school; maybe it is the first time they are going or perhaps they are returning a little older and wiser. Regardless, if it is their 1st year or their 6th year below are some important safety tips that we need to make sure we are reviewing before school starts.
How to identify “helpers” – Make sure that your child knows in an emergency who they can go to for help. This may be the designated people that you listed on your family safety plan or if those people are not available it may be the store clerk, the policeman on the corner, or the mom walking her kids to school. Talk with your child about never getting in a vehicle with anybody for “help.”
An easy way to introduce this concept to small kids is by turning it into a fun game while you are out and about. “Spot the Helper” when you are out at the store, or the park ask your kids who they would go to for help if you were unavailable. Ask them why they would choose that person, what draws them to that person, and most importantly listen to what they are saying and discuss the options.
Body Safety – The numbers are staggering that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 8 boys will be sexually abused in their lifetime. This is horrific to think of and teaching your kids that they are the owners and in control of their body is so important. Make sure your kids know the proper names of their bodily anatomy and not just cutesy nicknames. Kids should know that they are special, and nobody has the right to hurt them or give unwanted touch/attention.
Teaching your kids that they are the owners of their bodies and that their voice and decisions around affection attention matter at a young age is so important and gives them a sense of empowerment.
Street Safety – Do your kids know about basic street safety? Make sure that they are aware how to safely cross a street (stop, look, and listen), they know that sidewalks are important and if available should be used, if they ride a bike to school brush up on bike safety and road rules, make sure that they practice watching for brake lights through a parking lot (a big clue a car is going to be backing up), teach them to always make eye contact with a car driver before they cross in front of them, and if they walk to school make sure you have a family safety plan!
A fun way for little kids to learn basic street safety is a fun song: Stop, Look, and Listen before you cross the street. Use your eyes, use your ears, and then use your feet. This is a catchy little tune that you can sing and practice while out and about. My kids also love making it into a “who can see/hear a car first” game.
Boys holding hands safely crossing a crosswalk
What to do if lost – Getting lost is never any fun for grown-ups or kids and making sure that you address this in your family safety planning is a must! Discuss with your kids what to do if they get lost on the way to/from school, field trips, school events, etc. Make sure that your talk about how panicking is not the answer, discuss how they can use the “Spot the Helper” game, and make sure there is a meeting point or a location they know they can go to.
Vital Information – As our young children prepare to enter preschool/kindergarten we should make sure that they know some vital information about themselves. Our kids need to know their full name, parents’ names, address, and a parent’s phone number. So many kids have no idea what mom or dad’s real name is and in an emergency that is information that needs to be known. Also knowing their address or your phone number is key in a variety of situations.
You can teach your kids this information with basic copy work but another fun way to work on the address and their navigational skills is by a game we like to play called “lost.” Start out doing this at the end of your street while on your way home; stop and ask your kids if they can find your house and what your house number street name are (be willing to turn in the wrong driveway or go past the house). Then as they master that progress a further distance from your house and practice them navigating you home from church, school, the grocery store, etc. This helps your kids learn about reading road signs along with navigational clues (landmarks etc.) and direction.
Emergency vehicles at a school
School Emergency Procedures – As a parent are you aware of what the school does for different emergencies? Talk with your child’s school and their teachers to find out what their emergency procedures are; this is especially important with younger children so that you can help be a confident reassuring voice if they are unsettled by the thought of a situation happening at school or after the school does practice drills. Learning the plan can also help you feel more comfortable.
School Safety Measures – What are the safety measures that your school has in place? This is separate from their emergency procedures but just as important. What are their safety measures for visitors, can the kids leave campus during the day for lunch, pickup/drop off procedures, etc. Knowing these safety measures can help you in planning your safety plan. This allows you to tell a young child only xyz have permission to pick you up.
Communication with child’s teachers – Communication, by now you should realize that communication is VITAL in making sure we have confident empowered safe kids. We want to start conversations regarding safety with our kids young so that we have a relationship that is open to questions as they grow. That same communication is true for our children’s schools; we want to have a relationship with the school staff. This is extremely important if your child has ever been a victim make sure the staff is aware of any concerns you or your child may have and sit down with them to devise a plan of action for your child if they ever would find themselves in that position again. When we create a safety plan with our child, we are giving them POWER and CONTROL to say this is how I am going to handle the situation, that is empowerment and young children need that.
School Bus Safety – A school bus can be an exciting place, but it can also hold its own set of danger. No matter the age makes sure you are discussing appropriate school bus safety tips with your kids. This means ensuring that they know not to goof around, listen to the driver, quiet indoor voices, follow your family rules for media if they have a phone/etc., do not play in the street prior to getting on or off the bus, and always cross far in front of the school bus (there is a blind spot about 10 feet in front of the bus). Making sure your kids understand that while the bus is fun it is also a vehicle, and the rules need to be followed is important.
Kids safely crossing in front of school bus
Confident child with a safety plan – Review your family’s safety plan and answer any questions openly and honestly. Talking safety with our kids can be terrifying just like the thought of sending them into the world can be but the only way to combat fear is education. When we talk to our children and teach them about safety, we are NOT teaching them to be fearful, we are PREPARING them, giving them CONFIDENCE, and EMPOWERING them to take on any situation they may find themselves in. Our goal as parents is to have confident, smart, empowered, and aware children who are not afraid to stand up and do the right thing. Whether that be standing up to a bully to stop talking to them that way, telling a grown-up who is making them uncomfortable to stop, or telling a boyfriend/girlfriend to leave whatever the situation they may find themselves in we want them to know we have their backs, and they have a plan in place on what they can do.
A great way to build that confidence and assertiveness is by a fun game we like to call “Jellybeans.” This game is done in pairs (I typically have each child do it with me first) – there is a serious round and a silly round. We play the serious round first – that child looks at me using a confident posture (eye contact, standing or sitting tall, and says whatever serious statement they want “Leave me alone!” We talk about what they did good, what they could improve, why vocal tone is important. Then we do the silly round – same thing as above only this time they change a word to make a silly statement and they CANNOT laugh (the goal is to stay serious if possible). So that serious statement is now “Sunny me alone!”
It is a simple game but works on tone and confidence and you will notice after playing a few rounds how the kids really do improve on their assertiveness and the crazy things they come up with is always fun!
I hope you enjoyed these tips! Have a wonderful school year and do not forget to share this post with families you know!