While we parents try to be watchful over our children as often as possible, it is not feasible to be with them all the time, especially as they get older and more independent. To keep our kids as safe as possible, whether we’re watching or not, teaching them some essential safety rules at home and out in the community is important.
As a parent, it is our job to create a safe and secure environment for our children. Teaching your children these twelve safety rules will give them the tools and confidence to safely venture into the world. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it’s a good start!
12 Safety Rules Every Child Should Know
1. Contact Information
Every child should be able to recite their parents’ real names, their home address, and at least one parent’s phone number. My parents helped me remember our home address as a child by making it into a song.
2. Body Safety
From an early age, children should be taught that no one is allowed to touch them, especially their private parts. They should also learn that any touch, no matter where, that makes them uncomfortable is also not allowed. They should come to a trusted adult immediately if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
3. Crossing the Street
Young kids should be taught that they should never cross the street without an adult. They should learn to stay away from roads and only walk on sidewalks. Children should be taught to watch cars in driveways if they are on the sidewalk; pay attention to whether the vehicle is on or if someone is in it, and stay well away from the parked car if it begins to move. As children get older, they should be taught to look both ways before crossing the street.
4. Fire Safety
From an early age, teach young kids what a fire alarm sounds like and how they need to respond to one. Emphasize the phrase, “Get out, stay out!” to teach them that they need to get outside as fast as possible and stay there. Each family should have an evacuation plan in their home, and children should be familiar with it. Finally, teach your child to “stop, drop, and roll” if their clothes catch fire.
5. Water Safety
Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in US children 1 to 4 years of age and the third leading cause of unintentional injury death among US children and adolescents 5 to 19 years of age. It can happen in an instant and in just two inches of water. Teach your child that they should never get into a pool (or other body of water) without an adult. They should know to never run by pools and stay away from lakes, ponds, or rivers. Parents should take proper safety measures like keeping pools fenced and teaching children how to swim from a very early age.
6. No Secrets
Kids should know that they should never keep secrets from their parents. And that no one should ask them to keep a secret from their parents. If that happens, they should tell their parents right away. Assure your child that they will not get in trouble for telling you about an unsafe situation or person.
7. Are You Lost?
It is essential that a child know to stay where they are if they get lost. They can call for help or approach another mom with kids and tell her that they are lost. As kids get older, you can designate a meeting place any time you go to a crowded area just in case they get lost.
8. Animal Safety
Kids love animals, especially dogs. But dog bites account for 1% of all injury-related emergency department visits in the US, and most of the victims are children. Start teaching your child some basic safety rules regarding dogs from a young age. They should never touch a dog unknown to them and always ask the owner’s permission before touching any dog. Once they have permission, they should let the dog approach them; never invade the dog’s body space. Never tease a dog or touch a dog when they’re eating. Don’t try to hug a dog; they are not stuffed animals or toys.
9. Stranger Danger—A Better Way
We are all familiar with “stranger danger,” but teaching our kids about strangers is not as simple as it once seemed. First, the concept of a stranger is difficult for kids to understand. Also, people from store clerks to police officers are strangers, but most are not bad people. Finally, most child abductors are a family member or someone the child knows. A better way to teach kids about abduction safety is to teach them who “safe” people are and to pay attention to what people say and do and how they make the child feel. If a person asks the child to keep a secret, go somewhere with them, or makes the child uncomfortable, the child should seek a parent or “safe” adult immediately.
10. Dangerous Objects
Teach your kids to stay away from dangerous objects. Educate them from an early age not to touch knives, matches, or put their hands on stovetops or near electrical sockets. While many childproofing tools are available to parents to keep kids away from many of these things, it is still important that you emphasize the danger of these objects.
11. Trust Your Instincts
We are all born with a powerful ability to sense danger. Teaching your kids how to listen to that gut instinct will serve them well now and in the future. Teach them how to pay attention to situations or people that make them afraid or uncomfortable. Let them know that when they feel uneasy about a person or situation, they should seek a safe adult immediately.
12. Call 9-1-1
Finally, every child should learn how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. When a child is old enough to dial a phone, start teaching them (perhaps with a disconnected cell phone or a good old-fashioned house phone) how to make a phone call and have a conversation with the person on the other end. Emphasize that calling 9-1-1 is only to be used in emergencies and give them examples of what an emergency situation might be.
Teaching your child these safety rules will help you to help your kids stay safe, even if you are not with them. For more resources on child safety, check out SafeHome.org, Information of Safety in the Home and Community by the CDC, or look at the body safety book, I Said No! A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Kimberly King. You are your child’s first line of defense against unsafe situations. Be sure to give them the tools they need to explore, grow, and learn their environments safely.