- Tools & Tips for Training Your Children to be Safe
- Safety Tips for Kids to Always Keep in Mind
- At Home Alone – A Parent’s Guide
- Talking With Kids About Drugs
- Cyber-Safety For Kids Online – A Parent’s Guide
- Respecting Diversity
- Raising Streetwise Kids
Tools & Tips for Training Your Children to be Safe
- Records: Keep the following records of your children in a safe place: any custody papers, current photographs, their height and weight, their description (including scars and birthmarks), dental records, fingerprints and passports. (Once a passport is issued, it makes it difficult for someone else to obtain another.) Update the photos and information regularly.
- Knowledge: Know where your children are. Know the names, addresses and phone numbers of your children’s friends, and call to introduce yourself to their parents. Teach children to tell you where they will be and to check in with you when they get there and before they are ready to return home.
- Safe people: Create a short list of safe people that you give permission for your children to go with. Tell them to call you before going anywhere with someone not on the list, even if they say it is an emergency. Abductions by non-custodial parents are more common than stranger abductions. If you are divorced and have sole custody of your children, tell them whether their non-custodial parent is on the safe people list. To reduce the chance of potential family abductions, get a clear custody order that specifies visitation rights clearly, and know the non-custodial parent’s social security number, date of birth, current address and employment. Some parents create a password with older children so that parents can tell a friend the password if they ask them to pick up their child. This is risky with very young children because they can be tricked into telling the password.
- Strangers: Define a stranger as anyone the child doesn’t know very well. It is important for children to know that people they have seen before (the mailman, the ice cream truck driver, etc.) are strangers if they don’t know them well, and that someone can be a stranger even if they look nice or know their name. Tell children not to tell strangers their names or where they live, and don’t put your children’s names on the outside of their belongings.
- Prevention: To reduce your children’s fears and increase their ability to deal with dangerous situations, focus on common sense abduction prevention strategies rather than on the things that might happen to them. You can approach children with the issues of abduction the same way we approach them with about fire or earthquake safety. Assure the children that the chances of being kidnapped by a stranger are quite low, and we can teach them some techniques that will keep them safer.
- Clearly stated rules: Take the time to talk with children regularly about your safety rules. Let them know who can pick them up, and explain how they are expected to check in with you.
- Safe communication: It is important to lay the groundwork for dialogue about abuse and kidnapping. Parents and teachers can do this with young children by encouraging them to talk about their feelings. Ask about a child’s day and about the people they encountered. Are they having any problems? Be open to listening. By creating an open dialogue with children – especially about the things that make them scared, embarrassed or sad – you make it easier for them to tell you about potentially dangerous situations they’ve encountered.
- Good secret vs. bad secret: A good secret is fun to keep, like a surprise party or gift. A “bad secret” is a secret that makes them feel bad, confused or scared. Ask them to inform you if anyone tells them to keep a bad secret, and stress that getting help when they need it doesn’t make them a “tattle tale.”
- Assertiveness: Children can learn to “use their words” at an early age, and can be encouraged to speak in a clear, strong voice rather than whining or screaming. Reinforce assertive communication by complimenting children on the way they worded a request or stated their opinion, even if their request is not one you can grant.
- Yell NO, Run and Tell: Teach children to yell, “No,” to run to where there are safe adults, and to tell an adult if a stranger has approached them. Tell children that yelling and running are better safety ideas than trying to hide. Teach your children the difference between yelling and screaming.
- Safe distance: Teach children to stay a safe distance (approximately three arm-lengths) away from strangers and strangers’ cars, even if a stranger seems nice. Teach children to run in the direction opposite from the direction the stranger’s car is traveling.
- School safety: Encourage schools to establish callback programs so that if a child does not arrive at school on time, the guardians are notified within thirty minutes of when the child was expected.
- Home safety: Teach children to keep doors and windows locked when they are home alone, and to go to a neighbor and call 911 if a window is broken or if the door is open when they get home.
- Doorbell safety: Teach children to answer the door by asking, “Who is it?” Tell them to never say that they are alone and to never open the door when they are alone, unless it is someone their guardian told them to expect and let in. When they are alone, ask them to talk through the door and say, “My parents are busy now, I’ll tell them you stopped by.” Tell children to call 911 immediately if the person will not leave.
- Phone safety: Teach children that it is important to never say they are alone when a stranger calls, and to either let the answering machine screen calls or say, “Mom/Dad can’t come to the phone now, can I take a message?” Tell them to hang up if someone is making strange noises, saying scary things, or not saying anything.
- Internet safety: Put your children’s computer in the family room, or where you can keep an eye on the screen. Teach children that it is not safe to give their last name, address, or phone number to a person on the Internet, and that it is never safe to meet Internet friends in person without a parent’s supervision and consent.
- Practice: Children, like adults, learn skills best when they practice them often. Review your safety rules regularly. Test your children’s understanding of the rules with questions like, “What would you do if your bicycle broke and a neighbor offered you a ride home?”
Safety Tips for Kids to Always Keep in Mind
- I know my full name, my parent’s names, and our address and phone number.
- I know when and how to use 911 and 0. I know I can dial 911 and 0 from a pay phone without any money.
- I never put my name on my clothes, jewelry, caps or belongings where people can see it.
- I tell my parents about things that happen to me that make me feel scared, uncomfortable or sad.
- I know the difference between a good secret and a bad secret. A good secret is fun to keep, like a surprise party. A bad secret feels bad to keep, and telling my parents about it doesn’t make me a “tattle tale.”
- Strangers: I know that a stranger is anyone I don’t know well. Even people I recognize – like the mailman or ice cream truck driver – are strangers, and that someone can be a stranger even if they look nice or know my name. I never tell strangers my name or where I live.
- Buddy System: I use the “buddy system” and avoid walking or playing alone outside and in public places.
- Walking: When I walk down the street, I always face traffic so that I can see if someone stops their car near me. I never take short cuts through deserted areas like creeks or vacant lots.
- Yell NO, Run and Tell: I know that yelling and running are better safety ideas than trying to hide. If a stranger approaches me, I will YELL “No,” RUN to where there are safe adults, and TELL an adult.
- Safe Distance: I know to stay a safe distance (approximately three arm-lengths) away from strangers and stranger’s cars, even if a stranger seems nice. I know to run in the direction opposite from the direction the stranger’s car is traveling.
- Fight Back: It is okay to yell and fight; anything to get the stranger to let go. Yelling is the most important thing I can do, and to yell, “No!” “Help!” or “Fire!” to get an adult’s attention.
- Home Safety: I keep all the doors and windows locked when I am home alone, and to go to a neighbor and call 911 if a window is broken or if the door is open when I get home. I know how to call my parents or a neighbor if I get frightened when I’m home alone.
- Doorbell Safety: I answer the door by asking, “Who is it?” I never say that I am alone, and never open the door when I am alone, unless it is someone my parents told me to expect and let in. When I am alone, I always talk through the door and say, “My parents are busy now, I’ll tell them you stopped by.” If the person does not leave, I know to call “911.”
- Phone Safety: I never say that I am alone when a stranger calls. I let the answering machine screen calls or say, “Mom/Dad can’t come to the phone now, can I take a message?” If someone is making strange noises, saying scary things, or not saying anything, I will hang up the phone.
- Internet Safety: (See Link Below As Well) I know never to give my last name, address, or phone number to a person on the Internet, and that it is never safe to meet Internet friends in person without my parent’s supervision and consent.
At Home Alone – A Parent’s Guide
Your ten-year-old comes home from school at 3:00, but you don’t get home from work until 5:00. He’s at home alone for those two hours every weekday. What does he do until you arrive?
Most likely, he gets a snack or talks on the phone. Maybe he watches TV, but since you’re not there, you worry. Just like the majority of American parents who work and have to leave their children on their own after school everyday, you are anxious about your child’s safety.
But by following the safeguards listed below, you can help ease some of this worry and take measures that will protect your kids even when you’re not around.
Are They Ready?
Can your children. . .
- Be trusted to go straight home after school?
- Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
- Follow rules and instructions well?
- Handle unexpected situations without panicking?
- Stay alone without being afraid?
What You Can Do?
- Make sure your children are old enough and mature enough to care for themselves.
- Teach them basic safety rules.
- Know the three “W’s”: Where your kids are, What they’re doing, and Who they’re with. (Don’t forget to check on state law about the age at which children can be left at home alone.)
Are there things you don’t want your children to get into? Take the time to talk to them about the deadly consequences of guns, medicines, power tools, drugs, alcohol, cleaning products, and inhalants. Make sure you keep these items in a secure place out of sight and locked up, if possible.
Hang emergency numbers by the phone and teach your children to use them.
Teach Your “Home Alone” Children
- To check in with you or a neighbor immediately after arriving home.
- How to call 9-1-1, or your area’s emergency number, or call the operator.
- How to give directions to your home, in case of emergency.
- To never accept gifts or rides from people they don’t know well.
- How to use the door and window locks, and the alarm system if you have one.
- To never let anyone into your home without asking your permission.
- To never let a caller at the door or on the phone know that they’re alone. Teach them to say “Mom can’t come to the phone (or door) right now.”
- To carry a house key with them in a safe place (inside a shirt pocket or sock). Don’t leave it under a mat or on a ledge outside the house.
- How to escape in case of fire.
- Not to go into an empty house or apartment if things don’t look right – a broken window, ripped screen, or opened door.
- To let you know about anything that frightens them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
Take a Stand
Work with schools, religious institutions, libraries, recreational and community centers, and local youth organizations to create programs that give children ages 10 and older a place to go and something to do after school – a “homework haven,” with sports, crafts, classes and tutoring. Don’t forget that kids of this age can also get involved in their communities. Help them design and carry out an improvement project!
Ask your workplace to sponsor a Survival Skills class for employees’ children. You can kick it off with a parent breakfast or lunch.
Ask your community to develop a homework hotline latchkey kids can call for help or just to talk.
Join or start a McGruff House or other block parent program in your community to offer children help in emergencies or frightening situations. A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening situations. For information call 801-486-8691.
Talking With Kids About Drugs
Don’t put off talking to your children about alcohol and other drugs. As early as fourth grade, kids worry about pressures to try drugs. School programs alone aren’t enough. Parents must become involved, but most parents aren’t sure how to tell their children about drugs.
Open communication is one of the most effective tools you can use in helping your child avoid drug use. Talking freely and really listening shows children that they mean a great deal to you.
What do you say?
- Tell them that you love them and you want them to be healthy and happy.
- Say you do not find alcohol and other illegal drugs acceptable. Many parents never state this simple principle.
- Explain how this use hurts people. Physical harm – for example, AIDS, slowed growth, impaired coordination, accidents. Emotional harm – sense of not belonging, isolation, paranoia.
- Educational harm – difficulties remembering and paying attention.
- Discuss the legal issues. A conviction for a drug offense can lead to time in prison or cost someone a job, driver’s license, or college loan.
- Talk about positive, drug-free alternatives, and how you can explore them together. Some ideas include sports, reading, movies, bike rides, hikes, camping, cooking, games, and concerts.
- Involve your kids’ friends.
How do you say it?
Calmly and openly – don’t exaggerate. The facts speak for themselves.
Face to face – exchange information and try to understand each other’s point of view. Be an active listener and let your child talk about fears and concerns. Don’t interrupt and don’t preach.
- Through “teachable moments” – in contrast to a formal lecture, use a variety of situations – television news, TV dramas, books, newspaper.
- Establish an ongoing conversation rather than giving a one-time speech.
- Remember that you set the example. Avoid contradictions between your words and your actions. And don’t use illegal drugs, period!
- Be creative! You and your child might act out various situation in which one person tries to pressure another to take a drug. Figure out two or three ways to handle each situation and talk about which works best.
- Exchange ideas with other parents.
How can I tell if a child is using drugs?
Identifying illegal drug use may help prevent further abuse. Possible signs include:
- Change in moods – more irritable, secretive, withdrawn, overly sensitive, inappropriately angry, euphoric.
- Less responsible – late coming home, late for school or class, dishonest.
- Changing friends or changing lifestyles – new interests, unexplained cash.
- Physical deterioration – difficulty in concentration, loss of coordination, loss of weight, unhealthy appearance.
Why do kids use drugs?
Young people say they turn to alcohol and other drugs for one or more of the following reasons:
- To do what their friends are doing
- To escape pain in their lives
- To fit in
- For fun
- To take risks
Take A Stand!
- Educate yourself about the facts surrounding alcohol and other drug use. You will lose credibility with your child if your information is not correct.
- Establish clear family rules against drug use and enforce them consistently.
- Develop your parenting skills through seminars, networking with other parents, reading, counseling, and support groups.
- Work with other parents to set community standards – you don’t raise a child alone.
- Volunteer at schools, youth centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, or other activities in your community.
For More Information
- State and local government drug use prevention, intervention, and treatment agencies.
- State and local law enforcement agencies.
- Private drug use treatment service listed in the telephone book Yellow Pages.
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847-2345
Cyber-Safety For Kids Online – A Parent’s Guide
The Internet has opened up a world of information for anyone with a computer and a connection! Your children will learn about computers. But just as you wouldn’t sent children near a busy road without some safety rules, you shouldn’t send them on to the information superhighway without rules of the road. Too many dangers from pedophiles to con artists can reach children (and adults) through the Internet.
- Explain that although a person may be alone in a room using the computer, once logged on to the Internet, he or she is no longer alone. People skilled in using the Internet can find out who you are and where you are. They can even tap into information in your computer.
- Set aside time to explore the Internet together. If your child has some computer experience, let him or her take the lead. Visit area of the World Wide Web that have special sites for children.
- The best took a child has for screening material found on the Internet is his or her brain. Teach children about exploitation, pornography, hate literature, excessive violence, and other issues that concern you, so they know how to respond when they see this material.
- Chose a commercial online service that offers parental control features. These features can block contact that is not clearly marked as appropriate for children; chat rooms, bulletin boards, news groups, and discussion groups; or access to the Internet entirely.
- Purchase blocking software and design your own safety system. Different packages can block sites by name, search for unacceptable words and block access to sites containing those words, block entire categories material, and prevent children from giving out personal information.
- Monitor your children when they’re online and monitor the time they spend online. If a child becomes uneasy or defensive when you walk into the room or when you linger, this could be a sign that he or she is up to something unusual or even forbidden.
TELL YOUR CHILDREN…
- To always let you know immediately if they find something scary or threatening on the Internet.
- Never to give out their name, address, telephone number, password, school name, parent’s name, or any other personal information.
- Never to agree to meet face to face with someone they’ve met online.
- Never respond to messages that have bad words or seem scary or just weird.
- Never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
- Never send a picture of themselves to anyone without your permission.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE COMMUNITY
- Make sure that access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults.
- Know your children’s friends and their parents. If your child’s friend has Internet access at home, talk to the parents about the rules they have established. Find out if the children are monitored while they are online.
- Make sure that your child’s school has an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). This policy should include a list of acceptable and unacceptable activities or resources, information on “netiquette” (etiquette on t he Internet), consequences for violations, and a place for your and your child to sign. Your family can design its own AUP for the home computer.
- If your child receives threatening e-mails or pornographic material, save the offensive material and contact that user’s Internet service provider and your local law enforcement agency.
- If you come across sites that are inappropriate for children when you are surfing the Net, send the addresses to online services that offer parental control features or to sites advertising protection software to add to their list to be reviewed for inclusion or exclusion. Even if you don’t subscribe to the service or own the protection software, you can help protect other children.
Hate or bias-motivated crime is not anew phenomenon. It is a problem that many community have tried to deal with throughout history. There has been a disturbing increase in the number of these crimes committed in America over the past decade. Graffiti, vandalism, and criminal threats are the most common forms of hate crimes. On a child’s level, lesser forms include teasing, name calling, and racial slurs. Although adults often ignore these actions, they can have a profound and lasting impact on children.
WHERE DO CHILDREN LEARN THESE THINGS?
What if parents never said a word to children about differences? Children of all colors, religions, nationalities, and abilities wouldn’t see the differences and would play together in harmony … Right?
Not really. Children are bombarded with messages – some subtle, some not so subtle – from adults, peers, the media, and society in general. By the time children reach elementary school, they are aware of differences between people. Unfortunately, they receive a lot of false information about race, religion, culture, gender, and physical and mental challenges. Some have already developed prejudices against people who are different from them. These stereotypes will persist unless and until adults attempt to correct them.
By addressing the topic of respect for differences and providing accurate unbiased information, you can lay a foundation of tolerance and “unteach” negative messages.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Bring into your home books, toys, tapes, records, or other things that reflect diverse cultures. Provide images of nontraditional gender roles, diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, and a range of family life-styles.
- Show that you value diversity through your friendships and business relationships. What you do is as important as what you say.
- Make and enforce a firm rule that someone’s differences are never an acceptable reason for teasing or rejecting.
- Provide opportunities for your child to interact with others who are racially or culturally different and with people who are physically or mentally challenged. Look for opportunities at school, in the community, places of worship, or camps.
- Respectfully listen to and answer your child’s questions about others. If you ignore questions, change the subject, sidestep, or scold your child for asking, your child will get the message that the subject is bad or inappropriate.
- Avoid gender stereotyping. Encourage your child’s interests in all sorts of activities, whether they are traditionally male – or female-oriented.
- If you hear your child use a racial, ethnic, or religious slur, make it clear that those kind of comments are not acceptable.
All in the Family?
Many times extended family members may not share your views on diversity. These family members may show their prejudices through inappropriate jokes or slang. If an incident occurs where a child is present, ask the offender to refrain from that kind of talk around the children. If a child asks why a family member can say those things and the child can not, tell them that is it not acceptable to make fun of people because of the differences.
RESPONDING TO COMMON QUESTIONS CHILDREN ASK
Young children not only recognize differences, they also absorb values about which differences are positive and which are not. Your reaction to ideas that young children express will greatly affect their feelings and beliefs. Often, children’s curiosity-based questions about differences go unanswered because adults react by teaching that is impolite to notice or ask about differences. By failing to provide accurate information, adults leave children vulnerable to absorbing the biases of society. Here are examples of ways to respond to children’s questions:
“WHY IS THAT GIRL IN A WHEELCHAIR?”
“Shh, it’s not nice to ask.” (Admonishing)
“I’ll tell you another time.” (Sidestepping)
“She is using a wheelchair because her legs are not strong enough to walk. The wheelchair helps her move around.”
WHY IS JAMAL’S SKIN SO DARK?”
“His skin color doesn’t matter. We are all the same underneath.” This response denies the child’s question, changing the subject to one of similarity when the child is asking about a difference.
“Jamal’s skin is dark brown because his mom and dad have dark brown skin.” This is enough for 2- and 3-year-olds. For older children, you can add an explanation of melanin: “Everyone has a special chemical called melanin. If you have a lot of melanin, your skin is darker. If you only have a little, your skin is lighter. How much melanin you have in your skin depends on how much your parents have in theirs.”
“WHY DOES TRAN SPEAK FUNNY?”
“Tran can’t help how she speaks. Let’s not say anything about it.” This response implies agreement with the child’s comment that Tran’s speech is unacceptable, while also telling the child to “not notice,” and be polite.
“Tran doesn’t speak funny, she speaks differently from you. She speaks Vietnamese because that is what her mom and dad speak. You speak English like your mom and dad. It is okay to ask questions about what Tran is saying, but it is not okay to say that her speech sounds funny because that can hurt her feelings.”
Raising Streetwise Kids
WOULD YOUR CHILD KNOW WHAT TO DO IF –
- He got lost at a shopping mall?
- A nice-looking, friendly stranger offered her a ride home after school?
- A friend dared him to drink some beer or smoke a joint?
- The babysitter or a neighbor wanted to play a secret game?
A great think about kids is their natural trust in people, especially in adults. It’s sometimes hard for parents to teach children to balance this trust with caution. But kids today need to know common-sense rules that can help keep them safe – and build the self-confidence they need to handle emergencies.
START WITH THE BASICS
- Make sure your children know their full name, address (city and state), and phone number with area code.
- Be sure kids know to call 9-1-1 or “0” in emergencies and how to use a public phone. Practice making emergency calls with a make-believe phone.
- Tell them never to accept rides or gifts from someone they and you don’t know well.
- Teach children to go to a store clerk, security guard, or police officer for help if lost in a mall or store or on the street.
- Set a good example with your own actions – lock doors and windows and see who’s there before opening the door.
- Take time to listen carefully to your children’s fears and feeling about people or places that scare them or make them feel uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts.
AT SCHOOL AND PLAY
- Encourage your children to walk and play with friends, not alone. Tell them to avoid places that could be dangerous – vacant buildings, alleys, playgrounds or parks with broken equipment and litter.
- Teach children to settle arguments with words, not fists, and to walk away when others are arguing. Remind them that taunting and teasing can hurt friends and make enemies.
- Make sure your children are taking the safest routes to and from school, stores, and friends’ houses. Walk the routes together and point out places they could go for help.
- Encourage kids to be alert in the neighborhood, and tell an adult – you, a teacher, a neighbor, a police officer – about anything they see that doesn’t seem quite right.
- Check out the school’s policies on absent children – are parents called when a child is absent?
- Check out daycare and after-school programs – look at certifications, staff qualifications, rules on parent permission for field trips, reputation in the community, parent participation, and policies on parent visits.
- Check babysitter references.
AT HOME ALONE
- Leave a phone number where you can be reached. Post it by the phone, along with numbers for a neighbor and emergencies – police and fire departments, paramedics, and the poison control center.
- Have your child check in with you or a neighbor when he or she gets home. Agree on rules for having friends over and going to a friend’s house when no adult is home.
- Make sure your child knows how to use the window and door locks.
- Tell your child not to let anyone into the home without your permission, and never to let a caller at the door or on the phone know there’s no adult home. Kids can always say their parents are busy and take a message.
- Work out an escape plan in case of fire or other emergencies. Rehearse with your children.
PROTECTING YOUR CHILD AGAINST SEXUAL ABUSE
- Let your child know that he or she can tell you anything, and that you’ll be supportive.
- Teach your child that no one – not even a teacher or close relative – have the right to touch him or her in a way that feels uncomfortable, and that it’s okay to say no, get away, and tell a trusted adult.
- Don’t force kids to kiss or hug or sit on a grown-up’s lap if they don’t want to. This gives them control and teaches them that they have the right to refuse.
- Always know where your child is and who he or she is with.
- Tell our child to stay away from strangers who hang around playgrounds, public restrooms, and schools.
- Be alert for changes in your child’s behavior that could signal sexual abuse such as sudden secretiveness, withdrawal from activities, refusal to go to school, unexplained hostility toward a favorite babysitter or relative, or increased anxiety. Some physical signs of abuse include bedwetting, loss of appetite, venereal disease, nightmares, and complaints of pain or irritation around the genitals.
- If your child has been sexually, abused, report it to the police or a child protective agency immediately.
- If you child is a victim of any crime, from stolen lunch money to sexual abuse, don’t blame him or her. Listen and offer sympathy.
TAKE A STAND!
- Work with schools and recreation centers to offer study time, activities, tutoring, and recreation before and after school.
- Start a school callback program. When a student – elementary, middle or high school age – doesn’t arrive as scheduled, volunteers at the school call the parents to make sure the absence is excused.
- Volunteer to help with a McGruff House* or other block parent program. If you can’t offer your home as a haven for children in emergencies, you can help in other ways – telephoning, fundraising, or public relations.
- A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening situations. Volunteers must meet specific standards, including a law enforcement records check.
- Programs are established locally as a partnership among law enforcement, schools, and community organizations. For information call 801-486-8768.