Here are the top 5 things you can do to start the school year off safely.
1. Walk the route to school with your kids
Whether this is your child’s first year walking to school alone, or he is a seasoned expert, make sure to take a day before school starts to walk the route to and from school with your child. Point out homes or businesses that you consider safe. Give your child permission to go to them for help. Choose places that you know and where you trust the occupants. If they have not met your child, take a moment to introduce them.
2. Teach the golden rule: “Never go anywhere with anyone without asking your permission first.”
This is the golden rule to child safety and it covers not only safety with strangers, but also keeps you in constant touch. Encourage your kids to ask permission every time they want to go somewhere, even to a friend’s after school. You should always know where your kids are in the event of an emergency.
3. Cut or remove all ties and draw strings from their clothes
Drawstrings, scarves and other ties can be a choking risk and a hazard to your kids when they are outside playing. Be sure to take the time to go through all of their clothing before they head out to the playground.
4. Use a symbol to label your child’s belongings
A predator is always looking for ways to convince your child that he is not a stranger and can be trusted. What better way is there than to call them by name? Regardless of what your school suggests, only mark your child’s belongings with a symbol or initials, and nothing more. Never use their name on anything that can be seen by a bystander.
5. Keep the lines of communication open
The absolute best way to keep your kids safe is to encourage and support open lines of communication. If kids feel that they can talk to you about what makes them uncomfortable, nervous or scared, they are much more likely to tell you something is wrong.
Finally, give your kids a big hug and kiss and have a fantastic, safe, new school year!
SAMANTHA WILSON, a former police officer, is an expert in child and family safety. She is the founder and president of Kidproof, a national child safety education agency, and author of ‘Safe Kids Safe Families’ (HarperCollins). She appears as a speaker on child safety in schools and communities nationwide; www.kidproofUSA.com.