IN the weeks prior to the start of the new academic year, many parents might admit that they had been through a million “what if” situations in their minds involving their children. It's a concern that might have doubled as they handed over their little ones to their educators.
Fortunately, you don't have to spend six to eight hours of the day for the next several months in a constant state of panic because of the unsettling reality of possible dangers lurking at school. You should instead devote some time to preparing your children so they can take charge in your absence.
How can you increase your child's chances of remaining safe this school year? Below are some safety tips from parents who have been there and done that.
Teach them to never walk alone
It's not strange to see little children walking on the streets. If you are unable to accompany your child on the walk to and from school, then you must teach them how to navigate these oftentimes dangerous streets. For example, make sure that your child knows how to cross the road, teach him/her to use pedestrian crossings, and discourage the use of any “back roads” or short cuts since roads with less visibility may make them more vulnerable to attack. Encourage them to also to walk in groups, as this will be safer.
Teach them to wait inside to be picked up
After school pick-ups can be chaotic. We see parents in and out of the school premises grabbing their kids and leaving. Unfortunately, in all this chaos unscrupulous persons may try to breach security. This is why you must teach your child to remain in class or the relevant pick-up zone until you get there.
Teach them to beware of friendly strangers
Chances are, your child will be approached by a stranger at some point, and while sometimes this individual may be harmless, you must teach your child not to engage in conversation with a stranger. Make sure to tell them that if this person does more than just try talking to them, that they should scream or fight back. Tell them to kick and hit, but more importantly, scream to get the attention of others.
Teach them to not accept rides from strangers
One of the ways that paedophiles and kidnappers lure children away is by offering them rides or pretending that a parent asked them to pick up the child. As such, you must warn your child against getting into a car with a stranger. Tell them that you would never send a stranger to pick them up and if you have to, you would use a code word or two that you would have taught them.
Teach them to observe their surroundings
If your child walks home from school alone, instruct them to observe their surroundings while walking. They may look over their shoulder from time to time or look at parked cars. This way they will be able to tell if they are being followed and/or watched. Give your child a whistle and encourage them to blow it if they feel unsafe as this will get the attention of people and possibly scare off a predator. Help your child to recognise and address bullying Unfortunately, even sweet little three and fouryear- olds can be bullies. As such you must tell your child to recognise that saying mean things to others and/or hurting them is unacceptable. Teach them never to do this to others and that if it is being done to them, they should bring it to the attention of their teacher and/or principal so that the matter can be rectified.
Teach your child important personal information
Make sure that your child is equipped with important information such as your full name, your phone number(s), address, and even where you work. In case of an emergency, you want your child to be able to provide this information so that you can be contacted. When doing this you MUST teach your child not to offer this information up to strangers if asked unless it is a policeman trying to assist them, for example.
Use “what-if” situations to reinforce lessons
Children get a chance to practise what you have taught them when you ask them questions based on situations that you have created. They get to think it through and can provide a response. For example, ask them what they would do and say if someone said, “mommy sent me for you”, “jump in the car let's go”, or if someone came up to them and offered them sweets while walking home. This is the kind of simulation that you want — do this often and as different situations arise to keep your child aware.
Teach them self-defence techniques
You should consider enrolling your child in martial arts, or if this is out of your budget, consider teaching them defence techniques with the help of a few YouTube videos. These could help your child to get away from potential offenders or criminals.