This month saw many parents returning to the early morning ‘school run’, causing anxiety for many as they embark on a new journey – taking their children to school for the first time. While a lot of that anxiety is unfounded, child safety is something to be taken seriously, and there are things you can do to teach your childs some basic child safety skills.
“The thought of your child’s first day at school is one which brings about many mixed emotions for parents; excitement, anxiety and thrilling to name a few. It’s a huge step not only for parents but it also marks the official start of the year when your routine returns,” says Cartrack’s Marketing and Communication Manager, Jacqui Marsh. Although there are obvious things that parents will have to do in order to ensure children are well equipped for school, it’s also important to start enforcing positive child safety habits in children of all ages.
“Parents need to be aware of the potential dangers that they may face while commuting with children, as well as while children are away from them. If children are equipped with skills regarding situations that could pose a threat to them, they will be more likely to react in a way that could save their lives,” says Marsh.
Child safety is one aspect of life that never becomes redundant. As children grow their safety needs differ, however, children grow and become adults who themselves may also have children one day. This is why it’s vital to instill good habits that nurture young people into confident adults – who contribute meaningfully to society. Although a risk situation is the last thing as a parent you may want to think about – you still need to be prepared in the event of it happening and ensure that your safety, as well as the safety of your children, is your first priority.
“Parents need to equip their children with the knowledge of how to react in these situations. This includes providing both proactive and reactive advice about situations that may be faced. Make sure that you instill the basics of child safety in children from a young age. Don’t talk to strangers; don’t give people they do not know directions if lost; don’t offer to help look for lost pets – many young children are easily lured away with animals or treats. Make your children aware that adults must get help from other adults. If they find themselves in a situation they are not comfortable in – let them know that it’s okay to say no, move away and tell an adult that they are familiar with about what has happened.
Children also need to be taught that they must say no to anything offered to them from strangers such as sweets, money and ‘gifts’.
Other important child safety tips include:
* Don’t get into strangers’ cars – let children know that if you are not coming to fetch them you will let them know who will be fetching them. Also have a code word that you use – this will enable children to ask the potential threat what the word is and easily be able to identify if they are being coerced into a stranger’s vehicle.
* Develop a family plan of what to do if children get lost. This can be particularly helpful when in a largely populated area, like a shopping mall. Also teach them a phone number to remember and the names of their parents and caregivers so that they are able to articulate this information when reaching a place/person of safety.
* Teach children the difference between appropriate and inappropriate secrets and how to differentiate between the two, as well as what the implications are – some secrets have to be told if they are to protect both children and adults. Create an environment where children feel safe to tell their caregivers if something has happened.
It is also vitally important is to teach children the telephone numbers of organisations that are able to assist them in times of emergency, including:
* Childline – 08 000 55 555
* Emergency Response – 10111
* Cellphone emergencies – 112
* Ambulance – 10177
Teach children these numbers and when to use them, as well as that these are numbers that should only be used when the need arises.
As a parent it’s also vital to remember that there is no time frame that needs to lapse in order to report a missing child. You can report someone missing as soon as you suspect that they have gone missing. To report a missing child you need to fill in a SAPS 55 form at your nearest police station. You can also contact the Missing Children South Africa organisation who will be able to assist you with what steps you need to follow – for more information please visit www.missingchildren.org.za.
“As parents it is not possible to avoid all potential threats to our children, but what can be done is to inform them of potential dangers that do exist and how to react or avoid these kind of situations,” concludes Jacqui.