Your babies and children are your ‘precious’. How can you ensure their safety, that they remain safe from harm no matter where you are, and especially when they are not with you?
While Singapore is a safe country and cases of child kidnapping and violence are few and far between, it is never too early to instil safety tips in our children. There is no need to give them a worst-case scenario each time. As parents, we do not want to go so far as to make them fearful of people in general. Instead, it is important that we approach the topic of safety in a non-threatening way. We want to make our young ones feel empowered, not fearful of people and unexpected situations in general.
Here are 10 important safety tips every parent should know:
1. Remember that Communication is Key
The best tool you can give your children to arm them against predators is to have an open line of communication. Let them know you are always there to listen and help. Encourage them to tell you if something is bothering them, even if they feel embarrassed by it.
(See also: Stay Ahead in your Child’s Safety)
2. Keep No Secrets
Teach your children this mantra: “I don’t keep secrets from my parents. I will tell them about people that scare me. I will tell my parents if anyone touches me in a way that I don’t like, even if that person is someone my family knows.”
3. Teach them about Stranger Danger
Have clear rules pertaining to interactions with strangers, such as not going off with someone they do not know. Let them know that a predator looks just like any person and will use different ways to lure a child. Create a password with your child and let them know they should not go off with someone who does not know the password.
(See also: How Children Can Learn about Stranger Danger)
4. Teach about Safety through Stories and News
Storytelling is one of the most common ways parents teach their children about safety.
“The very first lesson my children learnt about stranger danger was that Snow White died because she accepted and ate an apple from a stranger,” says Lim Wai Mun, a mother to three children. “We also make it a point to share with them crime-related news so as to create better awareness.”
Chew Pei Ling, a mother to three boys, makes up bedtime stories to impart safety tips. “For one entire week, my nightly bedtime stories were about three boys who had to stay at home by themselves. They would encounter different villains such as a thief, a con man, and so on. Naturally, the boys would be the heroes in these stories and save the day.”
5. Do Scenario Planning
Here are some common predator tricks you can alert your child to:
• Predators pretend to ask children for directions.
• Predators pretend to ask for help looking for lost pets.
• Predators promise money and/or candy if the child goes to their car.
• Predators threaten to hurt family members if the child does not do what they ask.
Practise each scenario and teach your child to say no in an effective and confident manner.
6. Keep Personal and Family Information Inaccessible
“I always tell my children to consult us first before revealing our personal information, such as our address and mobile numbers, to their friends,” says Lee Teng Nee, a mother to three boys.
Avoid labelling clothing, backpacks, or other personal items with your child’s name. Some families like to paste stick figures family decals on their cars. While these cartoons may look cute, they can actually reveal a ton of information to criminals, such as the number of people in your home, their genders and age. All these can be used against your family.
7. Get them to Memorise Key Information and Numbers
Get your children to memorise key information such as their full names, address, the parents’ mobile and workplace phone numbers. Teach them how to dial 999 in case of emergencies.
8. Give Instructions on what to do when you are Separated
Give your children instructions on what to do if they get separated from you in a public place. Ask them to go to an information desk, a cashier, or a police or security officer. If they are unable to get hold of anybody in uniform, ask them to approach a woman, preferably a mother with children.
(See also: How Not to Lose your Child)
9. Teach them to Walk Home Safely
There comes a time when your children may be old enough to make the short journey between home and school without you. If possible, get them to travel with a friend who lives close by, or better still, a group of friends. Let them know that if they feel that they are being followed, to run away quickly or seek help.
When Teng Nee made the decision to let her 11-year-old son to walk home by himself, she rehearsed the route with him several times. To make sure that he knew how to handle different situations along the way, she also had him lead the way while she followed behind.
10. Keep Track of their Movements
Always know where your children are at all times. Let them know they must always ask you before they leave the house, tell you who they are going to be with, and the places they are going to. In addition, create a list of their friends’ addresses and phone numbers so you can check with them if a child goes missing.
Finally, simply going through all the above information is not enough. Continue to rehearse or “role play” with your children, no matter how old they are, so that they know how to react under pressure.