Top Four Safety Tips for Kids
Most parents agree that safety is a top priority for their children. Pattie Fitzgerald, founder of Safely Ever After, Inc, makes life easier by sharing four critical concepts from her child safety curriculum that informs parents and children about how best to stay safe — and what to do if you don’t feel safe.
The Uh-Oh Feeling
That’s a child friendly way to describe our instinct, when someone or something just doesn’t seem right. It’s our own protective warning system, telling us to take action. Children have very strong instincts, and it’s important we allow our kids to listen to this inner warning bell. Of course, telling a child to listen to their instinct isn’t really relating to them on their level. That’s why it’s so important to teach kids to listen to their “uh-oh feeling.” You can say to your child: The “uh-oh” feeling is the little voice in your head or your heart or your tummy that tells you “Uh-oh, this doesn’t seem right” or “Uh-oh, I don’t want to do this.”
We want our children to feel comfortable telling us anytime they get an “uh-oh feeling.” It’s an empowering message for kids to know they can trust that feeling AND they can share that feeling with us at anytime.
It’s also important for parents to listen to their “uh-oh feeling” as well – especially when it relates to someone who interacts with our kids. In parent-speak: The minute you start making excuses for that “uh-oh feeling,” it’s a sure sign that something isn’t right and needs your attention. Don’t ignore it.
It’s one of my favorite rules for kids because it’s pro-active and clear, and applies to any given situation. “Check First” gives them a very specific action to take. It can slow down a child from impulsively doing something unsafe such as taking something from someone or going off with someone. Also, when they check first, it gives the parent time to assess the situation. “Check First” works in just about any scenario, and can prevent a child from being a predator’s target. For example, kids should check first: before helping someone find a lost pet, before going into their neighbor’s home to visit, before taking a ride with someone even if it’s with someone they know. If you can’t check first, then the answer is NO. “Check First” works with people they “know, don’t know, or know a little bit.” It works if they are approached by a stranger in the park with an enticing trick and it works with people they know, like a friendly neighbor inviting them into their home or to take a ride. It works with people you “know a little bit,” like the ice cream man who invites you into the truck to play a game to pick out a treat. You can easily remind your child about the “check first rule” whenever you’re on your way to the park, a party or event, or even when they’re playing outside. Use a playful little “What If…” game to help reinforce. “Check first” is a great way to monitor what someone is asking from your child.
Boss of My Body
Every child should feel their body belongs to them, and they can be the “Boss of It.” Even very young children understand what being the boss means. They know a boss is in charge and a boss has power. Being the boss of your body means they have the right to say no to any kind of touch, even if it’s from someone they usually care about. It’s not that all touching is bad, but sometimes a child doesn’t want a tickle or a hug from someone. They may have an Uh-Oh Feeling about that person, and we need to honor that. The unfortunate truth is that 90% of sexual abuse happens to kids by someone they know. It can be a relative, a family friend, or someone else close to the family-circle. When kids are taught they’re the Boss of Their Body, they are more likely to speak up when a touch doesn’t feel right.
Another important part about being the Boss is letting kids know they have very special parts of their body located in the “bathing suit zones” or “private parts.” Being the boss means they can tell anyone to leave their private parts alone, even a bigger kid or a grownup. Being the boss of their body empowers our children to use their voice in a yucky, uncomfortable situation. Being the boss of your body even works on the playground at school, in case another child is being physically aggressive in some way. The Boss is in charge of their body!
Get Smart About Getting Lost
It’s the most frightening thing that a parent experiences… that instant when you look around and don’t see your child. It’s also pretty scary for your child when they suddenly realize you’re not close by. In this scenario, it’s important that a child knows what to do to get help quickly. Teach your child what to do ahead of time.
1) Stay put! Just stand still and call out loudly for your parent. Chances are you’re still nearby and will hear them.
2) They can ask another mom with kids for help. Statistically, this is the least risky “stranger” and you simply want your child to make the safest choice if they are lost and need assistance.
3) They can ask a CASH REGISTER PERSON if one is nearby. This person usually has a microphone and can make an announcement. A child should stay right by the cash register once that announcement is made and wait for you.
Option #2 is the safest, strongest choice. Studies have shown that another mom with kids will be most sympathetic to a lost, frightened child and will stay with that child until the problem is resolved and you’re reunited.
Be sure to remind your child that you’d never go back to the car to wait for them, so they should never go into the parking lot looking for you.
With older children (9 and up), you can pick a designated spot to reunite. “If we get separated, we’ll meet at the merry-go-round or the front cash register.”
BTW, when you are reunited, hug your child and let them know they did the right thing in finding you. Try not to scold them for getting lost. They are probably just as upset as you are. Use this as a teachable moment to reinforce the importance of sticking close by when you’re out and about.
Pattie Fitzgerald, has successfully taught Child Predator Safety Awareness since 2001. She is the founder and creator of Safely Ever After, Inc. and provides effective, non-fearful safety workshops, seminars, and keynote speeches at schools, community organizations, churches, and corporations throughout the United States. She has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN Headline News and MSNBC, as well as KCBS-2, KNBC-4 and KABC-7.
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