When your family moves for the first time, each person has to get used to a new bedroom, a different neighborhood, and a new set of friends. For children and teenagers who have always lived in the same house, the prospect of making new acquaintances can seem daunting.
What’s more, when you take your children off of the street where they grew up and know all the neighbors and place them into a new environment, you need to remind your kids that they need to be careful when they interact with strangers-even if you’re leaving an urban environment for a suburban one.
Before you pack up your house and drive across the country, sit down with your children and discuss the following seven safety tips. They will learn how to protect themselves from harm, and you’ll feel safe letting them go outside when they’ve learned the proper precautions.
1. Teach Your Kids to Be Observant
Train your children to pay attention to their surroundings, including their physical location and the habits of people around them, so they can quickly identify a source of trouble.
When your child knows how to pay attention to strange behaviors, they can avoid potential threats. Or if your child gets pick pocketed or robbed while in public, he or she can identify the perpetrator or provide the authorities with any relevant details.
2. Teach Your Kids to Communicate with You
Children don’t like to feel like they’re under their parents’ constant gaze. But remind your kids that as a parent you need to know where they are going, who they’re with, and what time they plan to be home. If your children get into a car accident or run into trouble without telling you the exact location, you can’t reach them to offer support or help.
Establish clear expectations with your kids about how often you want an update on their location. And ask them about their new friends and their friends’ families to get a sense of your child’s security when he or she leaves the house. If any of your kids suspects that his or her friend is involved with dangerous or illegal activities, you want to know so you can protect him or her from harm.
3. Teach Your Kids to Navigate Your Neighborhood
If your little ones understand the geography of your town, they’ll know where to run for help if they encounter a problem. When they understand the neighborhood, your kids are less likely to get lost or wander into precarious areas.
Go on walks with your children and point out landmarks to them while you run errands. When you involve your kids as you learn the terrain, you bond with them and also teach them by example. Quiz each child on the route to get to your favorite stops, like a grocery store, restaurant, or school. Remind them that they can run to these buildings to make a call in an emergency situation.
4. Teach Your Kids to Stay With a Group
Criminals are less likely to target a group of children than an individual child on his or her own. When your children leave your home, tell them not to isolate themselves or wander off alone.
However, even a mass of kids can receive unwanted attention if they all talk amongst themselves and forget to pay attention. Twelve children all glued to their cell phones do not necessarily provide extra protection for each other. Remind your kids that there is safety in numbers-but only when they pay attention and act smart in public.
5. Teach Your Kids When to Call 911
If you’re late to pick up your child after soccer practice and you don’t answer his or her phone calls, a young child might wonder if he or she should contact the authorities.
Before any strange circumstances arise, talk to your small children-and even your teenagers-about the appropriate times to dial 911. Tell them that they should call immediately for:
• Medical emergencies
• A car crash
• A crime, especially assault or a burglary
When you call 911, you have to provide information about your location to the dispatcher, so remind your children to take note of their surroundings before they call.
6. Teach Your Kids Not to Tell People When They’re Alone
Your children will eventually feel safe in your new home, even when you go out. But when you leave them unattended, even for just a few minutes, they should avoid telling anyone that they’re home alone.
Give your kids permission to tell solicitors at the door and well-intentioned neighbors on the phone that a parent is busy, but will call them right back.
7. Teach Your Kids to Trust Their Instincts
Even though movies and the media highlight the dangers of masked muggers and strangers on public transportation, many criminals target children within their own families and neighborhoods.
Tell your children that they never have to follow an adult’s instructions that seem dangerous or scary. If they feel uncomfortable or anxious-or even if they just “have a bad feeling” around a certain adult-instruct them to call you immediately.
Enable your children to trust their instincts and use their judgment to avoid bad situations before they arise.
When you teach your kids these seven tips, you give them confidence to tackle a new living situation with confidence.