As the end of summer draws near, parents, grandparents, and guardians start preparing children for the return to class. This usually involves buying a few new shirts and a whole lot of school supplies, but it should also include a refresher course on basic street smarts. After a summer of relative freedom, it’s good to remind kids of all ages how to stay safe when they’re heading to and from school, and when they’re out and about after the last bell rings.
Making sure your child understands basic rules and knows that they must be responsible for being aware of their surroundings can help you feel more at ease as you send them out the door on the first day back.
Consider reviewing common-sense safety tips and implementing some new rules before your child heads back to class. We have some suggestions that you might find useful when you sit down to discuss back-to-school safety with your child.
- Have a code word. Choose a safety code word that any adult who is picking up your child should know, and share that word with your child. If a stranger approaches them and doesn’t know the prearranged code word, your child will know that the person is indeed a stranger.
- Review street rules. Even if your child is old enough to walk to school on their own, remind them to always cross at lights or at an intersection, look both ways before crossing the road (even if the light is green and they have the right of way), always use the sidewalks, listen for cars and horns, cross with the crossing guard if one is present, and always be aware of traffic around them.
- Know your safe spaces. Clearly identify unsafe spaces where your child is not permitted to go without first asking your permission.
- Make your whereabouts known. Make sure your child knows they must always tell you or the adult who is responsible for their care after school where they are, where they’re going, and when they’ll be home.
- Stranger danger. Children shouldn’t be taught to fear all strangers, but they should be taught to be very cautious of strangers that act strange. Remind children that:
- Adults they don’t know should never ask a child for help, so if a friendly looking stranger asks for help finding his puppy, the answer should always be no.
- They should never step close to a stranger’s car, and should never reach in to take something that’s offered, be it a toy, a piece of candy, or a closer look at a kitten.
- If a stranger attempts to lure you into a car, run the opposite way that the car is heading and find an adult that you know who can help you, be it a teacher, police officer, firefighter, or trusted neighbor.
- If a stranger actually does manage to grab hold of you, make noise. Yell things like, “Help! I don’t know you!” or, “Help! This isn’t my parent!”
- Ask for help. Make sure your child knows that if they feel they are in danger, it’s important to ask for help or call 911 if it’s an emergency.
- Body safety. Children should understand that their body is private and no one should touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. They should also understand that if it does happen, they need to tell you about it, and they won’t get into any trouble if they do.
The start of a new school year is an exciting time. Making it as safe as possible by reviewing important safety rules with your children is a good way to get the new year off on the right foot.
For a street proofing primer and safety tips for parents, visit Local Parent.
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