Child safety should focus more on empowering children with an action plan and less on burdening them with fear. ~Spencer Coursen
No one fears that which they know well. From turning of all the lights at night to jumping from the diving board in the backyard pool, children are at their best when they are empowered to overcome that which frightens them. In that spirit, the following are three simple solutions for parents looking to empower their children with a simple personal safety strategy.
Stranger Danger Is A One-Way Street
The world is full of good, decent, hardworking people who will do almost anything to help a young child in obvious need. Alone and afraid, children should know that It is OK to get help from strangers if they have an emergency and no one they know is nearby. The 3 F’s of “Family, Food and Flags” are good reminders for where children can go to get help:
FAMILIES – or any adult with young children can be trusted.
FOOD – anywhere food is served or sold is a good place to ask for help. Those selling food are checked and inspected prior to being given a permit. If your child is ever in trouble and they don’t know where to go —> Run to a Restaurant
FLAGS – Flags are friendly. A post office, library, school, or anyone with a flag on their uniform like police officer, fireman, or postal delivery carrier, can be trusted to offer help.
It’s important children understand that while it is perfectly acceptable for a child to ask an adult stranger for help, it is not ok for an adult stranger to ask a child for help. Any adult stranger asking a child for help should be reported to a trusted adult right away.
Practice Makes Perfect
Protecting your child is a cornerstone of parenting, but so is empowering them with lessons they can use for the rest of their lives. Teaching your child on what to do if there is an emergency is just as important as doing your very best to protect them from harm.
If you take your child’s hand on a crowded street to prevent them from getting lost, take one moment more to ask them what they would do if they couldn’t find you. It’s important to keep in mind that talking to children about safety or just telling them what to do is not enough. Children learn best through active participation. When talking to children about danger, we want to do so without raising their level of anxiety. We want to provide them with simple solutions to problems they can solve themselves. We want to have them be engaged in their own decision making process, to utilize their own problem-solving skills, and then practice those skills in a safe, learning environment. Teaching children about safety on the streets is no different then teaching them about the hazards of fire. We don’t simply teach them that fire is dangerous, we have them practice STOP, DROP, AND ROLL.
The same goes for dialing 911. Everyone knows to call 911 in an emergency, but how many have ever practiced doing it, or rehearsed what to say? The next time you’re having family time, practice calling 911. In addition to having them dial the numbers, have them rehears what to say, and then stay on the phone. Let them know that It’s ok if they can’t remember the address, or if they are too afraid to talk. So long as they can dial and stay on the line, 911 will be able to trace the call.
It’s ok to keep things simple. You can even have what to say printed next to the phone: “I need help, please send police and ambulance.”
This simple sentence is all that is needed to have help come running.
Whatever scenarios you think are most realistic, talk to your kids about what to do, and then have them practice what is expected. Personal safety skills increases a child’s confidence and competence in an emergency.
Children need a trusted source of information
When it comes to safety, parents should not feel burdened to “know everything.” If your child asks you a question, and you don’t know the answer, saying, “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out right now.” is a perfectly acceptable answer. So is, “That’s a really important question, and I want to make special time to talk. How about tonight at dinner?” This will buy you the time you need seek out the best advice for your child.
This response serves two important purposes:
- It establishes the parent as a trusted source of information their children lives.
- It removes the fear factor some children have of not asking their parents a questions for fear “they won’t know.”
Empowering your child with the confidence and comfort to come to you with any questions or concerns lays the foundation to foster an open dialogue for future – more challenging – subject matter conversations.
Awareness + Preparation = Safety
Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security advisor, threat assessment consultant, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.