As children grow up, parents increasingly face the challenge of keeping their kids safe as they roam about the world and acquire more independence. While a parent cannot be perpetually present to protect a child at all times, establishing a clear set of family safety rules for a variety of situations, both at home and away, fosters a child’s confidence in his ability to take care of himself. Through family safety education, the whole family learns to make safe choices, avoid danger and show respect for others inside and outside the family.
Staying safe at home means knowing how to answer the phone or the door and what to say or do if a parent or responsible adult is not at home. Some parents make it a rule to just not answer the phone or the door when they aren’t available while others give specific instructions about not letting on that the child is home alone or for whom it is OK to answer the door. Other home safety rules might include proper storage and use of dangerous chemicals, electrical safety or use of ovens and sharp objects.
Most parents warn their children of stranger danger, making safety rules such as never going anywhere without permission and never going off with a stranger, no matter what the enticement, such as toys, money, appeals to sympathy or claims to have been sent by a parent. Teach your children to use the buddy system anytime they are outdoors, at a park, store or campground. Talk to your kids about safe places to go for help in the neighborhood, at school, at the store or anywhere your family frequents. Let them know that if anyone asks them to keep a secret about what they are doing, they need to get away as quickly as possible and tell you immediately. Street safety for walking and safety in the car are further areas for families to establish limits. Families that camp together should discuss outdoor safety rules such as staying on marked trails, not disturbing animal habitats, and always taking along a whistle, water and a snack, sun screen and bug repellent.
As much as parents try to prepare their children to be safe, unexpected emergencies inevitably creep up. Therefore, the family safety rules should cover what to do in case of emergency. Role-play with children how to call 911 using inactive phones. Practice what to say and do, such as remain calm, answer all the operator’s questions and stay on the phone until help arrives. Have a family emergency evacuation plan and practice it monthly.
In the digital age of the 21st century, children need to be aware of how to handle themselves safely online. Just as a parent instructs a child to refrain from giving personal information to strangers on the street, so should be the rule for Internet use. Children should know to ask permission before signing up for anything that asks for address, email, phone number or private financial information. Parents should monitor their kids’ social media and make rules about who they can and cannot connect with online. Educate your kids that chat rooms and instant messaging can hide a predator's true intentions and identity, so they should never agree to meet anyone they don’t know personally in the real world. If anyone asks for personal information, log off immediately and tell a parent. Many parents also have rules or Internet filters which limit site access to family-friendly, parent-approved sites.
- District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department: Safety for Children -- Family Rules
- Head Start: Child Pedestrian Safety Rules
- Dr. Laura Markham: 12 Safety Rules for Every Family
- KidsHealth: Internet Safety
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Tips on Rules
- Washington State Office of the Attorney General: Internet Safety
- Crayola: Family Safety Rules Poster
- KidsHealth: First Aid and Safety
- Donna Rice Hughes: Youth Pledge (Family Internet Safety Contract)
- Alison Rhodes: Bicycle Safety Review: Bicycle Safety Rules Every Family Should Know and Follow
- Minnesota Department of Health: Home Safety
- Centers for Disease Control: Halloween Health and Safety Tips
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