11 May 2013

How to... Keep your kids safe

It's horrific to hear on the news about a missing child, and when you become a parent, it's even worse, as you can relate so closely.

We often wonder what we should tell our girls. There's a fine line between keeping them safe and making them scared, and it's difficult to know where to tread. A while ago, I read a blog which really made sense to me, and as a result, I sat down and talked to my children about this. Thinking about it, and in answer to their questions, we've developed our own "child safety policy" which Laura and I wanted to share with you.

Some of the original ideas are from Pattie Fitzgerald, who runs safety programmes for parents and children in the US - I hope she doesn't mind if I share some of her thoughts too, with a little paraphrasing...

On 'Stranger Danger': Although it's obvious never to go anywhere or take anything from strangers, in reality, often terrible things are done by the people that children know and trust best - Tia Sharp was murdered by her grandmother's boyfriend, and April Jones knew her abductor too. Instead, teach your children about 'Tricky People'. Tell your children not to go anywhere with anyone, unless they have permission from you (or your partner/usually their other parent), or their teacher.

'Grown ups don't need help from children'. How obvious is that??? But not so obvious if you're five, and you've been taught to always be polite and helpful. So teach this to your children, and teach them good!!

On a similar theme, adults shouldn't ask children to keep secrets (especially if they make them feel scared or uneasy). Kids usually have good instincts on this, but it's important to share this rule with your family and friends too. My mother-in-law often gives my darling daughters sweets, with a whispered "don't tell mummy". I know that this is harmless, but creates a bad habit that you should ask them to avoid.

Make sure they know your name and phone number. At festivals and on some public beaches, they have these clever little wristbands for kids, where you can write your phone number. A friend of mine used to wander off so frequently that in the end, his parents made him carry around a helium balloon, so that they could always spot him. A clever company makes these wristbands (buy them HERE), I reckon they'd be particularly good on school trips too.

Everybody’s private parts are private. Another good idea - pick a name for their 'bits' and stick with it. We use 'noony' for front bottom. If my darling daughter ever came home refering to her 'cupcake' (or similar - you get the idea), I'd be demanding to hear who told her that, and why!!

On getting lost: If they ever get lost in a public place, teach them to find a mum with kids and ask for help. Now my daughter is older (and learning to read), someone who works in the store (ie, has a Tesco badge on, in Tesco) is also a safe person. Whenever we go to a shopping centre (or other busy place), I gather my girls for a 'briefing' before we start shopping. I remind them of what to do if they get lost (usually, go to the tills in the store we're in; find someone in the uniform of the place we're in; find a mum with kids), wait for me and I'll come back. They also know what to do if they get separated from me on the tube, and I remind them often, so they don't forget*. They also know that they're not allowed to leave the playpark or soft play without me (even if the icecream van is playing it's music loudly). I tell them this EVERY time we go to the park or softplay.

Pattie Fitzgerald has loads more interesting advice on her website, which you can find HERE.

*We travel on the tube to school every day, so a strategy for this is vital! The rules, if they get separated from me on the tube: If they're still on the platform, and I get on the train without them, wait on the platform, I'll come back. If they're on the tube and I get off without them, get off at the next stop, wait on the platform, I'll come and get them. Headline: Wait On The Platform...

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