Alert but not alarmed: How to keep kids safe

Teaching kids about stranger danger

We all want our kids to lead happy lives, where they feel comfortable in themselves and safe in the world. Whether they’re playing in the park or walking home from school, it’s important that children have the freedom to enjoy their childhood, while preserving their personal safety.

By focusing on the good people in the world, we can teach children about who to trust if they need help. And in case something not-so-nice happens, it’s important to equip our kids with the life skills they need to deal with the situation.

Here are 12 ways that you can empower your kids to stay safe.

1. Safe adults

It’s a good idea to sit down with your child and make a list of adults they can trust. This could include people they know, like family friends, but also ‘safe adults’ like police, teachers, doctors and mums with kids. Drawing a ‘safety hand’ helps your child know who to ask for help. (via Daniel Morcombe Foundation)

2. Safe places

While you’ve got a pen handy, make a list of places your child can go if they ever feel unsafe. Schools, hospitals, police stations, shops and trusted friends’ houses provide safe havens for kids.

3. Important reminders

Two of the (many) lovely things about children is that they are honest and open. Without discouraging this, it’s important that your kid never goes with anyone without your permission.

Reassure your child that most people in the world are good, but remind them not to step inside a stranger’s house (even for a lolly), accept a ride home (even in the rain) or talk to someone who pulls over for a kerbside chat (even if they seem friendly).

4. Family passwords

A family password is a great way for your child to know that it is safe to go with someone who’s not you. For instance, if a colleague collects your child from school, all they have to do is say the password and your kid will instantly know it’s safe to head home with them. The password can be as fun as you like – as long as it’s memorable.

5. Trust their instinct

Children may not be as worldly-wise as adults, but they do know if something’s amiss (like mum trying a new brand of peanut butter…)

Remind your kids that if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable, they should get away from them and tell another adult what happened. From an early age, let kids know that their body belongs to them only.

6. It’s ok to say, “NO!”

Kids love routine and rules (even if they don’t admit it!) but teach your child that it’s ok to break a rule to get out of a negative situation. It’s also ok to scream, “NO!”, “STOP!” or “GO AWAY!” if an adult makes them feel scared.

7. Safety in numbers

As school kids gain their independence, remind them to stay with at least one friend when out and about. Being in a group is safer (and more fun) than flying solo.

8. Stay in the loop

Communication is key. Make sure you always know who your child is with, where they’re going and what time they’ll be home.

Also, remind your kid that they can tell you if they ever feel uneasy with an adult or are worried about something.

9. Make the call

If it’s right for your family, a mobile phone is a great way for parents to tell kids about a change of plan, and for kids to tell parents about something suspicious (and we’re not talking about the phone bill…).

Also, teach your child to dial ‘000’ if they feel scared, and make sure they know it’s a free call, including from payphones.

10. Plan ahead for crowds

If you’re going to a big event, there’s always a chance that your child will get separated from you.

In case this happens, write your mobile number on your child’s arm and choose a family meeting point. Or you can go high-tech with a tracking watch like the hereO. If your child loses you, tell them to ask a police officer for help in reuniting everyone.

11. Fun and games

Teaching kids about safety is very important, but it doesn’t have to be too serious! Resources like this NSW Police activity book and the Daniel Morcombe Foundation activities educate and entertain kids at the same time.

12. Self-defence 101

Older kids may get a kick out of learning martial arts. This is great for fitness, plus girls and boys will learn practical self-defence skills.

With these strategies, children can trust their instincts and also trust that there are people to help them if they feel unsafe. And this means they can live the secure and happy lives we want them to lead.