Summer is drawing to a close and we are getting our children ready for school. So we asked our mom friends if they had any questions or concerns about the safety of their children. Here are some of the top concerns:
Question 1: Walking to school
My child will be walking to school this year. He’s in 5th grade and I want to teach him safety skills without frightening him. What should I tell him?
Sit down with your child and discuss an action plan for the way to school with them. Make sure your child is comfortable with it. We recommend that he use the buddy system and not walk alone as children who walk alone are more susceptible. You should create a group that your child can go with – other children, or maybe an adult you trust to go with them. Children are always safer in numbers.
“What if” scenarios
Draw him the way to school. Don’t take short cuts and stay on the sidewalk. Do some test runs with your child before school starts. Discuss what if? Scenarios while walking. What would you do if it started to rain while walking? What if a neighbor offers you a lift? Discuss all options – help your child make the safest, smartest choices. A child should check with their cell phone first.
If a car / stranger stops to speak to them, review the action plan. Explain that adults should not seek help from children. You should ask adults. He should NEVER start a conversation with anyone in the car. He should say “NO!” scream. run and go and tell a trustworthy adult. Explain that he does NOT need to be polite to an adult he does not know. Your safety always comes first. And if something unusual happens on the way, he should always report it to head office when he arrives at school.
Question # 2: At home alone
I have to go back to work and my 10- and 6-year-olds have to be home alone for two hours in the afternoon before I get home from work. I am a wreck! What do I teach them to be home alone? My 10 year old has never been home alone.
Let them know what to expect
Again, an action plan is a good place to start. Think about it: knowing what to expect as an adult will make you feel more comfortable and confident. It’s similar with our children. Sit down with your children and discuss a plan of action for staying home alone. Start by simply explaining the new schedule and explaining that he will be home alone for a few hours each day. Ask your child how they feel about it. See what concerns he / she has.
Make a plan with your child of what the guidelines are for home alone time. What are the two important steps you need to take when the kids are in the house? (Lock the door and call to let certain adults know you are home.) Can they use the microwave? The computer? What should you do in the event of a medical emergency? Can you watch tv Do homework? Shower? Show your child where the list of emergency numbers is next to the house phone (four trusted adults, including a neighbor and emergency services).
Never answer the door
Here is the most important skill: We recommend teaching your children to NEVER open the front door. If there is a knock on the door, they should go straight to the phone (don’t see who it is) and call the first person on their list. It is the adult’s responsibility to decide what to do with their child – then tell your child what to do (“Good job, check with me first – don’t answer the door – I’m not expecting anyone” or “It.” is “Grandma, you can open the door” or “stay on the phone with me until they leave.” Children shouldn’t answer the phone unless you have a caller ID and you’ve set it up beforehand (in your action plan) which numbers / people they can connect while you are home alone. KidSafe recommends children not to use the Internet alone at home unless they check with you first, and we do not recommend friends while your children are alone are at home.
Establish these guidelines with your child. Let them know the limits they have. This is an ongoing conversation. Practice leaving them alone before school starts to get used to and become more familiar with the idea. Have a neighbor knock on the door to see how they react. Use this for further discussion of the seriousness of not answering the door at home alone. It takes practice to break the habit of opening the door.
At some point during the first week of school, you will have a check-in conversation with your child. Do you ask how it’s going? What is hard Terrifying? What works? Keep the lines of communication open and the school year should go smoothly.