Neighborhood watch and home security practices should extend beyond the comfort of your house, especially when it comes to your kids. Unfortunately, your neighborhood may not be a totally safe place for your children to roam and play by themselves, though following a few guidelines will help. Teach your kids how to react in stressful situations, along with a few preventative measures, in order to keep them safe:
Parents Should Ask Kid Where They Are Going First
As a parent, whether your kids want to go to their friend’s house, visit their favorite playground or get a ride to the park, they should ask you first. This way you’ll know where they are and who they are with at all times. You may have to pull specifics out of them, but don’t settle for vague answers. For example, “Can I go to the park?” might require a follow-up of “Who will be there?” You may not feel comfortable with your children hanging out with certain people when you aren’t around. Making your kids ask for permission, then getting more information, will help you protect them.
Teach Kids Not To Accept Anything from Strangers
Kids can be trusting when they are young, which may be dangerous. Teach your children to never accept things from strangers, no matter what they are. If your child feels uncomfortable, encourage them to get an adult they trust, scream for help or run home. Feeling safe is always more important than etiquette.
Saying ‘No’ To Your Kids is OK
In addition, teach your kids that they can say “no” to adults. While obeying you is a good thing, children need to know that not all adults have their best interests at heart. If a person makes them uncomfortable by asking them to do something, then your children should be able to stay firm and deny that person their request (and get out of there quickly!).
Set Boundaries and Make Rules for Your Kids
While the kids are still young, you may want to consider limiting where they can play. Young children might have to stay within your eyesight, while older kids could have more freedom to roam the neighborhood. A good rule of thumb is to allow them to explore as long as they don’t cross major streets. Time of day is another parameter. For example, the kids might have to be home by sunset or before you arm your home security system at night.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
The people who live near you can be your greatest ally, so get to know them. Host a block party or barbecue as a way to meet the neighbors. The more relationships you build, the more people you’ll have to call on in times of need (or to watch the kids for a couple minutes).
Designate a Neighborhood Safe House For you Children
Once you feel like you know a neighbor or two very well, you can start to count on them. Designate one or two houses in your neighborhood that your kids can go to in an emergency. For example, if someone comes up to them who seems threatening, they can run to the neighbor’s (if it’s closer) and call you from there.
Keep Tabs On Your Kids
Know where your kids are by watching them, giving them a cellphone or having them check in. Some parents let their kids play outside throughout the neighborhood, as long as they come home every couple of hours for a visible confirmation of their safety.
Teach Kids the Right Information
Your kids should know their address, phone number, your name and number, and 911 in case of an emergency. Should something happen, they’ll know who they can talk to and how to get a hold of them. Their home information is also important to share with police. Consider posting these important items on your refrigerator as a good reminder.
Promote Communication with Your Children
Keeping open lines of communication with your kids is important. They should feel safe telling you about something scary that happened so you can help them. If they are too frightened to talk to you, you may never know if your kids are being bullied, for example.
When In Doubt Go With Your Gut
Encourage your children to listen to their instincts. Sometimes, bad people seem nice and friendly. A gut feeling may be the best protection they have in a bad situation. Don’t let your kids ignore it!
Photo Credit: Dave Malinowski