My wife and I are extremely blessed to have three wonderful kids. Our whole lives revolve around them – they are our everything. Our lives wouldn’t be the same without any one of them.
As a parent, it’s our responsibility to love and protect them from the dangers of the world. It’s our job to teach them how to 1-identify a potential danger, 2-what to do if they find themselves in a particular situation and 3-how to talk to you about those dangers.
Just the other day, my two oldest kids, ages 6 and 4, were in the backyard playing in the snow by themselves. After about 30 minutes outside, they both came running in as fast as they could and called for my wife and I to “Come Quick!”. I sensed that something was wrong and quickly ran to them in the living room.
My daughter informed me that some older boys had walked between our house and the neighbor’s house as a short cut to get to the old high school here in town. My daughter had remembered a “Stranger Danger” lesson we had with her some time prior. She quickly grabbed her little brother and they both ran as fast as they could to our house.
I couldn’t have been more proud of her and knew that we had done a good job in teaching her what to do in the event of a stranger coming into our yard. They may not have been in any danger from those two boys, but you never know.
From this experience, I decided to write down a list of possible situations our kids could face some day and how to teach them what to do in each of these situations. I hope you, as a parent, find these tips helpful.
Be sure to print out the quiz at the end for your kids to fill out. You can use this when talking to your kids during your family night. (NOTE: Some of these situations are for kids who may be older and are permitted to be home alone without an adult present)
- If you are home alone and someone is trying to open the door?
Depending on the child’s age, it may be best for the child to grab the phone, hide in a closet and call his or her parents. This is because kids who call 911 themselves may take longer to explain the situation and where they live. Parents are then able to quickly call 911 themselves and provide the address quickly as well as calling a neighbor to go check on the kids as well.Additionally, if the child calls the parents, then calls 911 you will have three people, Mom, dad and the child, who are calling 911, neighbors, and close family who can all quickly come to the child’s aid. Parents will also be able to calm the child down and help him or her stay quiet while hiding.
Obviously every situation is different and you, as the parent, know what is best based on where you live. Take time to make a plan with your child and how they can best take care of themselves.
- Is it safe to take candy from a stranger?
This is a tough one. Every year we dress up in our favorite costume and go door to door asking for candy from strangers. My kids love it! However, you don’t want your kids thinking that it is the norm and that when a stranger offers them candy they can get it and immediately trust them.One simple rule of thumb that is generally true is to only take candy if your parents are around and say that it is ok. With the amount of allergies and particular diets common in children these days, it is a common curtesy to ask the parents before giving out treats. Even the doctor’s office ( a place that we teach my children is a safe place) are respectful and always ask permission before giving a treat after a checkup. My wife will even ask permission from friends before feeding their kids while playing at our house.
- What should you do if you smell smoke or see a fire in the home?
Being able to identify the risk of a fire and what to do should be a part of your family emergency plan. You can read more about how to make a family emergency plan HERE.Kids should never attempt to extinguish a fire. Have them get their brothers and sisters and exit the home as soon as possible. Once they are safely outside they should go to a trusted neighbor’s house and call 911 and their parents..
- An adult stranger is asking for help finding his puppy. Is it safe to help him or not?
I, like you I’m sure, want to teach my kids to be kind and helpful to others. However, if an adult approaches your child they should say ‘NO” and leave immediately to get their parents. Think about it for a minute: why would an adult need help from kids to go and look for something. A stranger may ask if they have seen their dog run by but it just doesn’t make sense for them to ask a child to stop playing to help them. As a general rule, we designate for our children where they are allowed to play and under NO circumstances are they allowed to leave without asking us first. This seems to cover most situations.
- What should you do if you’re being chased by a dog or scary animal(s)?
Teach them not to panic and not to run. Tell them to face the dogs and try to look as large as possible. If they have a backpack on, use it to put between themselves and the dogs. Call for help and slowly back away from the dogs and towards a home or business where others can help you.
- What if someone, you just met at the playground, your own age, invites you over to play at their home?
Strangers can be dangerous regardless of their age. Additionally, the home of the other child could be dangerous as well. It’s important to never let your child go to a home until you, as the adult, are comfortable with who the kid and adults are in the other home. Teach your kids to say no and to always asks permission before going to another person’s home regardless of how friendly they are.
- What should you do if you’re home alone and you smell gas?
Just like the fire situation mentioned above. Kids who are home alone should exit the home and call a parent and/or 911 to have the smell inspected.
- If you are waiting for an elevator and some strangers come up, should you ride with them?
It is extremely dangerous to ride in an elevator with a stranger. Have your child back away from the elevator and tell them that they are waiting for their parents.
- If you are walking home from school and you notice that you are being followed/watched?
Have them quickly run to a public place such as a business, playground or store. Have them call their parents to come pick them up. Teach them to find an adult with children such as a mom or dad to help them call their parents.
- If you are home alone and someone knocks on the door, should you let them in?
Children should be taught to never open the door for anyone they don’t know – regardless of who they are or how friendly they look. Teach them to call their parents and ask them what to do.
- What if a stranger grabs you and doesn’t let you go?
They need to do whatever it takes to get away or attract the attention of others who can help them. Teach them that they need to kick, bite, scream and call for help. Teach them to say things like, “This is not my mom/dad” or “I’m being kidnaped!!”. When appropriate, teach them where to kick the attacker. You know what I mean…
- What if you get lost and find yourself in a large crowd of people?
Teach them to work their way to the edge of the crowd where they can more easily be seen by their parents who will be looking for them. If they fall down and are at risk of being stepped on, have them curl up in the fetal position and cover their head. This will not only protect them but also alert others that they are in need of help.
- What if you’re outside and a large thunderstorm rolls in?
Find a safe shelter right away. It’s not the rain you need to worry about but the lightning. Avoid trees, cars or any large metal structures that attracts lightning. Normally the easiest is to teach them to come inside when they hear thunder.
- What should you do if someone is threatening you on the internet?
Trust is the best way to protect your child on this one. Children need to know that they can talk to their parents about anything, regardless of how embarrassing it may seem. If anything like this were to happen, they should come to you for help.
- Your friends wants to play on a frozen lake or river. Is it safe?
Walking on ice can be extremely dangerous and should only be done at specially designed places with an adult present. Teach your kids to never go out on a frozen pond or river without you or a trusted adult. Help them understand the dangers of doing so.
- Can you take medicine from the first aid kit if your home alone?
Medication can be dangerous if taken incorrectly. All medication should be stored in a place that your child cannot get to them. Again, knowledge is power with this one – teach them the dangers of taking the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of medicine. Have them call you if they are feeling sick and need help.
- Your friends dare you to do something you don’t feel is safe-what do you do?
Teaching your kids what peer pressure is will help them understand how to react to situations such as this. Knowing how to confidently say ‘No’ will help them and possibly others in this situation.
- A stranger says he or she has to “show you something” but you can’t tell anyone. What should you do?
If a stranger or someone they know tells your child that they need to show them something and that they must keep it a secret, your child should say that they feel uncomfortable and to leave immediately.
- You’re playing at a friend’s house and your friend wants to show you his dad’s gun. What should you do?
Guns are very dangerous and should be locked away so that no child is able to get to them. Regardless, teach your kids that it is okay to say “no” until an adult is present- even if they really want to see it! If they need to, they should call you to come get them.
- What should you do if someone touches you on a place of your body that you feel is private. What should you do?
When appropriate, teaching your kids that they have ‘Private Parts” that they should never let anyone else see or touch is the best way to protect themselves from situations like this. Again, your child needs to trust you and know that you will listen to them if this were to happen so that they feel comfortable talking to you about it.
Raising our kids in today’s world can be hard and stressful. You will not always be there to protect them on the playground, at school or at a friend’s house. Teaching your kids how they can protect themselves and how to talk with you about things that they feel embarrassed or threatened by is often the best way to protect them.