With every new stage of your child's development comes another question about safety. Is he ready to play in the back yard by himself? Is he ready to walk to school? Then, before you know it, you'll be saying Yes to his taking a bus ride to the mall. Teaching your child safety guidelines as he becomes more independent involves teaching him to evaluate risks and to avoid danger. You can't set out rules for every situation, although it's important to have general guidelines that will be helpful to your children in many different situations. You might role-play situations with them, asking what they think would be a safe course of action. Talk about the possibilities and guide them toward the action that they should follow. You want your children to eventually learn to evaluate risks on their own.
Deciding when your child is ready for more responsibility, which usually brings with it more risk, requires a balancing act. The fact that your child is eager to try something, such as riding his bike to school, doesn't necessarily mean that he has the ability and judgment to do it. Age is only one indicator of a child's readiness. Ask yourself whether your child could handle the unexpected as well as the expected in a new situation. Ask him "What if?" questions. "What if you fell off your bike and you needed help? Whom would you ask?" Role-play and practise variations on the possibilities before you let him go out on his own.
Rather than tell your child "Don't ever touch matches," encourage your child to be watchful for potential dangers and to tell one of you about them. Tell your child to come and get you if she finds a dangerous object or situation. When you've dealt with the problem, praise her or reward her, too, depending on the situation. You don't want her to think that a reward is the only reason to be watchful.
As your school-age child explores a wider and wider world, explore the same world yourself. Walk with her along the routes she takes to her school or to visit her friends. Ask for a tour of their hideout in the park. Meet the owner of the convenience store where she stops some days for a treat after school. The more you know about her world, the more you'll be able to help her negotiate it safely, and to know when to loosen your grip.
Safety Every Day
Here are some guidelines to discuss with your child.
• Stay away from public spaces, such as parks and school yards, when there are no other people around. You may have lots of room to practise biking skills, but you're also isolated.
• Don't visit parks at night or use deserted laneways as shortcuts.
• Identify neighbourhood Block Parent homes.
• When in an elevator, stand beside the control panel in case of an
• Appreciate the power of the voice. If someone grabs him, he should
scream at the top of his lungs ("Help!" "Kidnap!"). Tell him that if he can't attract help by yelling, he should spin around as fast as he can, which makes it hard for someone to hold onto him. If he can break free, he should run as fast as he can.
• Even a small child should learn to recite back to you her full name and its spelling, telephone number, and address. It's also important to teach your children your own full names, phone numbers at work sites, and the names of the places where you work.
• Children should learn to listen to their own internal radar. If a voice inside tells them that something or someone isrA right, it's probably correct,
• Never hitchhike, and never accept a ride with strangers.
• When lost or in trouble, contact an appropriate adult. A mom with young kids is a good choice.
• Children should be wary of an adult who asks them for help, even if it's just the time or directions. Bypass T-shirts with personal names on them. They could provide the lure for an abductor, who would use the name to secure the child's trust.
• Never reveal to anyone who calls on the phone or comes to the door that you're alone at home, even if that's the case. Parents should role-play these situations to help their children develop some standard replies to use so that their inability to lie doestA reveal more than they realize.
• If a school bully or other attacker threatens you and demands your money or other possessions, hand them over. 'When you've escaped harm, tell your teacher or a parent.
• Always tell your parents where yotAe going.
• Turn down job offers, rides, or gifts from any strangers.
• Distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate touching, and understand that no one has a right to touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable. If someone does, tell an adult you trust. Refuse invitations to visit someone else's house, or refuse to invite someone into your own house without first getting parental permission.
• Guard against developing a false sense of security. Remember, children are always changing and developing.
• Keep an up-to-date photo of your children around, preferably one that is full-face, simple, and clear.
• Record changes in your child's height, weight, and hair colouring each year, perhaps when you take him in for a yearly physical examination.
• Know your children's friends and their parents and their addresses, and acquaint yourselves with their hangouts.
• Expect the unexpected. Don't be the parents who express surprise when their child who "has never done that before" has an accident.
• Understand the basics of first aid. Research shows that if people get trained in first aid, their risk of injury goes down 30 per cent over the next five years.
Traffic and Outdoor Safety
By teaching your child pedestrian safety, you help her deal with the main danger in her life. Motor vehicle accidents are the Number One cause of injury and death for children. Those in the age group between five and nine are more likely to die as pedestrians than as passengers in a vehicle. It's the responsibility of parents to teach kids how to negotiate traffic safely. Practise with your child until she knows these traffic safety rules:
• Learn and obey all signs and traffic or pedestrian signals.
• Don't walk from between parked cars to cross the street; go to the pedestrian crossing.
• Look in all directions, even at the pedestrian crossing, before you cross the street.
• Walk-don't run-when you cross the street or any road.
• When you have to walk where there's no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road facing toward the oncoming traffic.
• Don't play games in the street; play in a safer place away from the traffic.
When you pick outdoor clothes for your child, remember that pedestrians with retro-reflective gear are visible to motorists at a much greater distance. Remind her that a cassette/radio with headphones can be distracting and prevent her from hearing any warning horn signals from drivers.
To protect youngsters from the danger of the sudden inflation of an air bag, Transport Canada recommends that children under twelve not ride in the front seat of vehicles equipped with air bags. Since neither you nor your child will always know whether the car you're riding in has air bags, make "kids in the back seat" the family rule for all vehicles.
Teach your kids that bicycles are not toys, they are road vehicles, and bike riders must follow the same traffic rules as car drivers.
• Obey all signs and traffic lights. nals for turning and
• Learn how to make the hand and arm signals for turning and stopping, and use them regularly.
• Ride single file behind any cars in your lane and with the flow of the traffic; stay at least a car door's length away from the cars parked at the side of the road.
• Avoid riding your bike on streets that have heavy traffic. If you have to use one, be aware of the blind spots that car and truck drivers might have for a cyclist. Parents might: put their child in the driver's seat of their own car to demonstrate what a blind spot is and how dangerous it would be when the vehicles are in motion.
• Keep off the sidewalks.
• The best routes for kids on bikes are the bike trails through parks or for distance sport riding.
• Make sure your children's bikes have the proper safety equipment, including a headlight and reflectors for biking at night.
• Cyclists should always wear a CSA approved helmet. Let your child select his own headgear - he's more likely to wear one if he has chosen it. Threequarters of cycling fatalities involve head injuries; 85 per cent of all cycling injuries could have been prevented if the riders had been wearing helmets. Since kids learn by example, wear your own helmet when you go biking with your kids.
In-line skating and skateboarding
If you think your child is ready for either a skateboard or in-line skates, be sure that you also purchase all the necessary protective gear. These skaters should protect their heads with helmets, their knees and elbows with protective pads, and their wrists with wrist guards.
Wrist injuries are the most common of all the injuries that skaters face. Wearing the wrist guards, your child will be ten times less likely to break his wrist in a fall.
Because playgrounds are designed for kids and are often on public property, parents expect that their children will be safe in them. But not all playgrounds are safe, not all the equipment is kept in safe condition, and not all kids play safely on the equipment or in the playground. Most often, injuries occur because kids use the equipment in ways no one expected it to be used. Few playgrounds have supervision, so parents have to monitor their children's playground activities until they reach an age for independent play with other children. If your child doesrA use the equipment properly, it may be because he's bored with it and it's time for him to move on to other sports or activities. Here's what kids should know about playing in playgrounds.
• Always slide, hang, or jump feet first.
• Use the equipment one person at a time, and move away when you I ve finished your turn.
• Don't climb onto the roof of a covered slide.
• Use only the equipment that you're big enough to reach.
• Don't stand on swings, don't climb on the supports, don't ride double, and dotA jump off in mid-swing. Don't walk in front of or behind someone who is swinging.
• Remove your bike helmet when you play on equipment.
• Remove scarves and mittens on cords, any outer clothing with drawstrings, hoods, or any features that could easily get caught in the mechanisms of playground equipment and cause strangulation.
Before you allow your child to use a playground or a particular piece of equipment, look it over and even give it a shake to make sure the equipment is in good repair. Look for sharp points and edges or any loose pieces or protrusions that could catch on clothes and pinch little fingers. If repairs are needed, call the park management or agency responsible for keeping the equipment in good repair.
If necessary, get together with other parents to clear the area of debris and branches, to make sure the apparatus is well spaced and safe for use by several children. Ensure kids leave their bikes and toys at a safe distance from the playground equipment. Above all, make sure that your child is strong enough and agile enough to climb on the apparatus he chooses. Falls from equipment account for 59 per cent of all playground injuries.
Apply all the guidelines for protection from the sun when your children will be outside for any length of time in a playground. Children should be protected from the sun's direct rays by wearing a cap or hat and having a long-sleeved shirt available. They should apply a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, and frequently reapply it as long as they stay outside.
Home Pool Safety
Half of all the deaths by drowning that occur in Canada take place in
home pools. If you have a backyard pool, it's your responsibility to keep
everyone who uses it safe. Here's what to remember.
• The fence around the pool must meet your municipalitys bylaws.
• Usually, the fence must be at least 1.5 in (5 ft.) high and go around
all four sides, including the side that leads to the deck or patio doors.
• Keep furniture away from the fence so that kids can't use the furniture to climb over the fence.
• Put two locks on the gate, a day lock and a heavy-duty night lock.
• Install night lighting.
• Have a phone available beside the pool.
• Be very careful about the toys you let children bring to the pool. If a toy rolls into the water, children might reach for it and fall into the water.
• Store pool chemicals under lock and key.
• Write out pool rules to reduce the risks of injury or drowning. Post them and teach your child and visiting friends to follow them. Let them know that banishment is the punishment for not following the rules!
Swimming classes are a good idea for any children who haven't yet learned to swim. If you're planning a children's pool party, hire a qualified lifeguard. There may also be a teenager in your neighbourhood who has her lifeguard certification. But when you're away from home, it may not be wise to let a teenage baby sitter supervise the kids in the pool. It's a huge responsibility.
Every year in Canada about 1,300 fires are started by children. These fires result in an average of 20 deaths and 150 burn injuries. Kids need to know that matches and lighters are not toys. Instruct your children to let you know when they find either matches or lighters. Set a good example. Don~t ever let your children see you horsing around with fire or candles and matches, with lighters or lighter fluid, with barbecue equipment or any other flammable materials.
Be sure to have smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector installed on each floor, especially near the sleeping areas. Replace the batteries regularly-using the same schedule for changing clocks at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time is a good idea. Have a family plan for escaping from a home fire, and practise it as a family at regular intervals, even making the alarm ring so kids know what it sounds like. The escape plan should have two routes for getting off each floor, and should
identify a place for everyone to meet when they get out. Everyone should know to call 911, but the kids should know that this is primarily the responsibility of the adults in the family.
• to call out to or awaken the rest of the family if they're the first
• to notice the fire or hear the alarm.
• to never hide in a closet or in another room.
• to get out of the house as fast as possible.
• to call 911 and give their address as soon as they are outside.
• to never try going through the flames.
• to get down on the ground if they see smoke, and crawl underthe smoke.
• to cover their nose and mouth with a wet facecloth, if there's time to get one.
vto drop to the ground outside if their clothes have caught fire, and roll over and over to smother the flames.
• to not go back inside to save pets, video games, or any other valuables.
• to learn how to use a home fire extinguisher for small fires.
• to learn that putting a lid on a burning pot or pan will help to smother a small fire.
Safety from Sexual Abuse
Studies show that the person most likely to abuse a child sexually is a family member, a close family friend, or someone with authority over the child. How can you protect your child? First of all, monitor your world and the people in it. We ask kids to trust their intuition; parents should do the same. If a situation doesn't feel right, then it probably isn't. Err on the side of caution when you give other adults access to your child, even if they are adults you have trusted up to now.
Talk to your child about what's appropriate touching and what's inappropriate, However, don't make him feel that he's totally responsible for his own safety. Saying "If anyone touches you, tell them No" isn't always helpful. Any child in an abusive situation is not free to say No. He's too frightened and alone, Let your child know that he can come to you with any concern about his body, about someone touching him in a way that doesn't feel right, or about any sexual question and that you will not be angry with him. He needs to know that there are no taboo subjects in your family so that he'll feel safe enough to confide in you if anyone tries to involve him in sexual acts.
Excerpted from Raising great Kids: Ages 6 to 12 by Christine Langlois. Copyright 1999 by Telemedia Communications Inc. Excerpted, with permission by Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.