Tips for Child Personal Safety

News headlines about kidnappings, sexual predators and cyber-bullying make parents understandably anxious. But when it comes to keeping our kids safe, knowledge is power. We know we need to teach children personal safety skills. How do we do this effectively – without scaring them?


 “As parents, our first job is to protect our children, and there are so many things that this encompasses,” says Alison Feigh, a child safety expert with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (, a program of the National Child Protection Training Center, and author of the children’s book I Can Play it Safe (Free Spirit Publishing, 2008). “They are next to us for a short amount of time before they are off at school and activities. They need to be prepared to protect themselves in a way that is confident, competent and capable.”


Here, child safety experts detail what kids need to know at different ages and how to teach those skills:


Toddler/Preschool (ages 2-5)


Teach your children:

• to always stay within sight of a parent.


• to know their name, address, telephone number and how to dial 911 in an emergency.


• the proper names of body parts – Teach them that no one should touch them in a way that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable, and that they should tell you if this happens.


• that a stranger is anyone you don’t know – “Tell your child not to talk to anyone they don’t know unless you are with them,” advises Sherryll Kraizer, PhD., founder of the Coalition for Children (, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent child abuse, bullying and interpersonal violence, and author of The Safe Child Book (Touchstone, 1996).



• Role-play or discuss “what if” scenarios to help children with limited life experience know how to react in a situation.


• Tell your child that if he becomes separated from you or a trusted adult in a public place, he should stay where he is and ask for help from a staff person, a police officer or a nearby parent with a child.


• Make learning fun. Try teaching your child to sing her phone number and address to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to help her remember, suggests Cherie Benjoseph, cofounder of the KidSafe Foundation ( and co-author of Jack Teaches His Friends to Be KidSafe!&pagebreaking&


Early Elementary (Kindergarten – Grade 3)


Teach your children:

• the “buddy system” – Teach your child to hold hands and stay with a friend when away from home and in an unfamiliar situation.


• to say “Stop” to anyone who is bullying or bothering them – If that doesn’t work, teach your child to tell a teacher or another trusted adult about what is happening.


• to use the Internet only as a resource for information, not as a mode of communication – Closely monitor what your child is doing online.


• that within a family, there should be no secrets – Tell your child to come to you if a relative or peer has made him or her uncomfortable, and especially if that person insists that your child keep something a secret.


• the differences between boys and girls and that each needs to respect the other’s privacy – Explain safe vs. unsafe touch to them.



• Ask your child how he would handle certain situations. Play the “what if?” game and role-play. Teach children about safety in a positive, confident way. 


• In an uncomfortable confrontation with a stranger, teach your child to do whatever it takes to get help. Have her yell, “This is not my mother [father]!” Teach her to never go anywhere with a stranger and never to take anything from an adult without checking first with you or her caregiver.


Tweens (Grades 4-8)


Teach your children:

• to respond “No!” if they feel threatened.


• to always tell an adult where they’re going and to never go anywhere with anyone without permission.


• to get to school safely – If your child walks to school, initially walk with him to show him landmarks, methods for safely crossing streets and safe places to go if being followed. If your child takes the bus, visit the bus stop with him to be sure he knows which bus to take.  


• to safely be home alone – Introduce her to neighbors, establishing safe neighbor homes she can go to if needed.


• how to deal with bullying and sexual harassment – If your child tells you that she’s being bullied, take it seriously and decide how to handle it together. Possible first steps include contacting the bully’s parents, a teacher or a school counselor.


• that you insist on knowing all of their Internet passwords.&pagebreaking&



• Make it a point to spend one-on-one time with your child. Get to know his interests and circle of friends. This will make it easier to spot changes in his behavior and attitude.


• Encourage self-respect. Tweens can be in the awkward stage of entering puberty and having an interest in the opposite sex. Remind them that their bodies are special, and there’s plenty of time for relationships later on.


Teenagers (Grades 9-12)


Teach your children:

• not to go out alone – Tell them to always stay with their friends and to check in when plans change.


• to call you for help; no questions asked – If a teen is involved in a risky situation (a drinking party, exposure to drugs, etc.), this policy could help save his or her life.


• to create a list of other trusted adults – Program their phone numbers into your teen’s cell phone.


• to say no to drugs and alcohol and to understand safe-sex practices.


• safe behavior online.


• how to handle bullying and sexual harassment – Take seriously your teen’s claims of being bullied and decide how to handle it together.


• to drive safely.



• Talk with your teen often. Conversations are critical at this point. Take any opportunity alone with your child to ask how she’s doing and to listen to what she has to say.


• Remind your teen that you’re always there to listen.

Katherine Wood is a freelance writer and mother of two in Stow.


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17 Mar 2013

By Katherine Wood