Children play intuitively and are constantly exploring different ways to play. Some do this with caution, while others continually seek out new challenges. Either way, a child’s right to explore, play and discover is something that as parents and caregivers we must protect. It enables them to develop, grow and learn, and become confident, capable characters.
A family is the first line of protection for children. Parents and caregivers are responsible for building a safe and loving home environment, and every safety skill you teach your child can be carried with them throughout their childhood discovery. Schools and communities have a responsibility to protect also, but it’s as part of their home life that basic safety skills should be taught.
The earlier you start conversations surrounding basic safety the better, and it needs to be an ongoing conversation. Even if you aim to be continually present, you must be realistic and understand the importance of letting your children stand on their own two feet. As much as you would like to you can’t physically protect them 24 hours a day, so by teaching them to protect themselves, you put them in good stead for a healthy and happy future.
By teaching basic contact information to your children, you can greatly help them in times of an emergency. Kids should be able to share their full name, your name, their address and a nearby landmark, and older children should also be familiar with a phone number. As young children forget easily, you should practise this as often as possible.
Your child should know that no matter the circumstances, they should never let themselves be led away by a stranger. Inform them that if someone says “your mum asked me to get you and take her to her immediately”, they should stay where they are and call out for help. Remind them that if there is ever an emergency, you will send a grandparent, aunt or someone your child knows and trusts, and never a stranger.
It can also be a good idea to teach your child a ‘safety word’ that only you and they know. This way, if you do need to send someone your child doesn’t know very well, you can tell them the safety word and so your child will know it’s ok to go with that person.
Children are vulnerable to road accidents and injuries, especially if there is a lack of adult supervision. As well as never letting your children play near roads unsupervised, you can reduce risk by teaching children to:
Wandering aimlessly or panicking if your child finds themself lost will only create further confusion. Teach your children that if they are in the supermarket and they can’t find you, go to the counter and ask for help. Re-inforce the rule that they should not leave the shop! You could also teach them to try asking a parent with another child for help.
Kids start young on computers these days, and online safety lessons are a must. Teach your children never to give out information regarding what school they attend, where they live, how old they are, or a phone number.
There are certain things that children should never play with, including matches, knives and any other dangerous weapons. While you can try to keep things out of reach, it’s important to teach children to respect that some things are only for adults and that they should leave them alone.
Teaching your children about good touch and bad touch can help them determine when someone has behaved inappropriately with them. Explain that should anyone other than mum or dad touch their body, they should report it immediately and shout for help. Of course you will also need to be careful to teach them that there are some circumstances where it’s ok for people to touch them, such as in the doctor’s office or the school nurse if they are hurt at school. This should be an ongoing discussion with your child.
Kids are often told to keep something their friend or sibling did secret, but teach them that should they believe the activity was dangerous, harmful or really naughty, they should not be afraid to tell you. Offer your assurance that should they share their secrets, you will try your very best not to make judgement.
It’s not only important for children to know how to report an incident to 000, but also when it’s appropriate to do so. Talk about possible situations and what steps to take, and role play common accidents in and around the home to get them used to making a call.
Whether you have a pool at home or not, it’s vital you teach your children about pool safety. Enrolling your child in swimming lessons is important, but so too is teaching children to stay away from pools, dams, lakes, creeks or water tanks without you, to never run by the pool, and to always swim between the flags.
Teach your children about instinct and the importance of following it to stay safe. Teach them that if ever they are unsure about an activity they have been encouraged to do, don’t do it – even if that means stepping away from everyone else in the group.
Sun safety is one of the most important lessons you can give your child, teaching them to cover up on hot days and to always wear sunscreen when going outdoors. Teaching kids early to protect their skin will ensure protection for years to come.