Child safety awareness is something every parent thinks they have a good handle on. We all know our kids should wear a seat belt, (or be in a booster seat/car seat), we know to keep dangerous things out of a child’s reach and we know to practice water safety and use smoke alarms.
But there are things that might not occur to us or we just don’t think about much, but once implemented, can actually give us the most peace of mind.
None of the tips listed here will blow your mind. But they are practical and ones I use or have learned from others.
I also conferred with my husband, who is a police officer. So although this list is not conclusive, it should be a good starting place.
Before we dive in, I want to be clear, I do not mean to fear-monger you. I will not read posts or watch videos that do, so I will not do that to you.
But I want to remind you that there ARE dangerous people out there. I am seeing it more and more. Just this past year, two of my friend’s sons were each approached by a stranger who tried to persuade them away from their parents. Thankfully the warning signs were there and the parents intervened.
We may never be able to protect our kids 100% of the time, but we can try our best.
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Parent’s Guide to Child Safety
- Put Down the Phone
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- There’s safety in Numbers
- Hold child’s Hand or Keep Them in Cart
- Practice Stall Safety
- Have Children Memorize the Information
- Have a Family Password
- Have a Form for Your Child When They Babysit
- Protect Your Child’s Phone
- Get a Smart Doorbell
Click the image below to download:
I want to start with the simplest tip. It might not sound like much, but it’s something I remind myself of over and over.
In a world where everyone has a phone, distraction has been the number one tool used by those with devious motives. I am guilty of being distracted by it, everyone is.
All it takes is one text, one call, and our attention is drawn away. Most times, we don’t even realize how long we have been distracted.
If we can make it a habit to tuck away our phones while out with our kids, the chances of spotting danger increase and chances are, no one’s going to risk messing with our children.
This leads to my next point:
This is something I struggle with the most, especially when I’m with my kids. I can be very one-track-minded and when I’m in a hurry, it’s worse.
But I have made a conscious effort to look around when I’m out and about. I even make eye contact with people so they know I’m aware. Because if someone is scoping out a victim, the chances of him targeting a mom on her game, is slim to none.
You can also teach your children to be aware by asking them where you parked, pointing out landmarks to help them remember, and giving them pointers on what things they should be paying attention to.
Being aware can save your life.
I’ll give you an example:
When my kids were younger, I took the youngest two to a park in a neighborhood by a friend’s house. We were the only ones there, and it was a small park so I felt good about being able to keep a good eye on my kids.
But we weren’t there 20 minutes when a car backed into the parking spot right next to our van, on the driver’s side.
That was my first red flag as most people prefer to park in the closest spots to the park or at the very least, separate from other cars in the lot.
I kept an eye on him and he on us. I noticed him glance our way more than once, but he never got out of his vehicle except to check something in his trunk.
When it was time to go, I was gripped with an overwhelming apprehension as we headed towards our van and his car. I made a last-minute decision to load the girls in the door farthest from his car then climbed in behind them, locking the doors immediately. Then I climbed into the front seat from the back.
We left right away and I kid you not, he pulled out behind us and followed us all the way to my friend’s house where he finally drove on.
No, I didn’t get his license plate number; I was too shaken to think that far ahead. I just wanted to get as far away as possible from this guy.
But I learned firsthand that being aware is so important. I’m glad I didn’t find out the hard way.
If I had gone to the park that day with a friend, that guy might not have stuck around. But I was a young mother, alone, with two small children. A prime target, I would guess.
To be honest, I rarely take my girls to the park unless I’m with a friend or the park is empty. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun for my children, but if there’s only me trying to monitor three fun-loving children and there are 20 other kids for them to mingle amongst, I will have some serious anxiety trying to keep an eye on them.
But having another adult present to help keep an eye on the kids is usually the best scenario all the way around, as long as the conversation doesn’t distract from the kids.
Another thing to add to this point, when there are several children to look after, having an older child along to help with the younger children can be a great help.
This is probably the one thing I don’t have to add to this list. Everyone knows you hold a child’s hand when you are out and about with them.
But when you are in a situation where the child tends to tug free or you need your hands for something, keeping them in the cart is the next best thing.
How many times have you been in a store and heard a notice over the PA about a missing child in the store? Every mother fears the worst: child abduction. But chances are, it’s just a kid who wandered off. It happens so quickly.
I always felt safer having the kids in the cart when they were around toddler age. Of course, this only works if they can stay seated.
As they got older, I had them walk alongside the cart, but they had to have one hand on the cart. This helped keep them from wandering off to check out every shiny object we passed in the store. But it also kept them close while I located items on my list.
I have seen too many times a child left to stand outside a stall while the adult uses the restroom. ANYONE can snatch that child and disappear before the adult has time to react.
If you cannot take your child in the stall with you, then send them in a neighboring one with strict instructions they are not to leave their stall until you knock on their door telling them you are finished and they can come out.
That is the practice my girls and I use. Every time.
Another thing to consider is whether to let your children go into a multi-stalled bathroom without you.
Now, there are times, like when we are at Aldi’s, for example, where I’ll let my oldest go alone to the two-stalled bathroom, but I wait just outside where I can see everyone who goes in.
The general rule of thumb for us is, I go with them in every restroom when we are in a public place. ESPECIALLY if they have more than one exit like a rest stop, etc. Those bathrooms are notorious for traffickers.
Both parents I mentioned at the beginning of this post, had their sons approached in public bathrooms. One in an airport and another in an oasis. The older teen boy was approached while he washed his hands at the sink, the man was trying to learn if he was alone.
The younger boy was leaving the bathroom and a man caught his attention trying to get his help to locate more toilet paper. They know how to talk to kids and when to do it. We really cannot be too careful.
Again, not trying to scare you, but inform you. These things ARE happening.
One of a mother’s worst fear is losing their child in a public place, but kids can be sneaky and one second of a turned head is all they need to disappear.
I did this to my mother, my kids have done it to me; I’m sure most moms have their own story of turning around only to realize their child is not with them.
Hopefully, if this does happen, a concerned adult will come across the wandering child and will help them. If the child knew their information, it would just take one quick call before being reunited again.
Learning it just takes time and repetition, but this practice should be a priority, even before they start school.
When we taught our children our address and phone number, we put it to a catchy song they knew well and they learned it in no time.
Sadly, there have been situations where a “friend” of the family picks up a child from school, etc. without the parent’s knowledge and takes advantage of the child because trust and familiarity got them in the door. Most child abuse happens with a friend or relative of the family.
Because of that, we have a very small number of trusted adults our children may go places with. It comprises mainly of family members. But as an added precaution, we also have a password. Let me explain:
If I need a friend to meet up with my children, I try to get a message to the girls first. If they have not received a heads-up from me, and a friend tries to pick them up, the girls are to ask them for the password. (The adult SHOULD have already uttered it to them before this point if I was the one who sent them.)
When they hear the password, they know all is well. If not, (I may have forgotten to give it to the adult, due to an emergency situation, etc.) then they can call me and I will either tell the adult the password or talk to my child directly. (This was before our oldest received her cellphone.)
Having a password eliminates any insecurity on our girl’s behalf and stabilizes trust for the adult taking them under their care. Or, on the flip side, if they feel something isn’t right, our girls are under strict instruction to reject the offer, using us as their excuse.
As a child, it can be very intimidating to tell an adult no. Make it as easy as possible for them.
Also, have a code your child can use when they are apart from you.
One that alerts you that something is not right and your child wants to go home. This safety tip is imperative!
Think back on your own childhood. How many times were you somewhere and you wished you weren’t? Or you wanted to go home but didn’t feel you could call your mom and say, “Come get me.”
If our children are in a situation where they feel they cannot talk openly to us, it is most likely because someone else is listening. It could be a friend who tried to get them to do something they aren’t comfortable with. Or an adult. Either way, they need a way of escape that doesn’t compromise them.
Again, we need to think about things from a child’s perspective.
For more in-depth information about personal safety, visit NCMEC.
An adult can manipulate a child into believing anything. But if that child is uncomfortable, we need to make it EASY for them to reach out in a way that doesn’t make them hesitate in the presence of others.
It should be a code that anyone listening might not pick up. For example: “What time is it?” or “Can you bring my red sweater when you pick me up?”
If that code is ever used, we tell them we’re on the way and the child can pass on the message that “something came up and mom said I need to come home”.
I know there are going to be some reading this who think this is overreacting. But as someone who endured sexual abuse for years, these are very real scenarios and ones our children–God forbid–might encounter one day.
Having these codes established will give our kids the peace of mind that we can be there for them even when someone else might not want us to be.
One way to keep your teen safe is to teach them safety guidelines for when they are away from you.
If an emergency happens, are they prepared? Do they have the information they need to get help?
Having a form for the parents of the child to fill out will help your teen be well-equipped in case of an emergency. It also gives them something to reference when adrenaline causes them to forget information they may already know.
This form should have all the basic information for the home they are staying in, and phone numbers for the children’s parents, any known allergies, etc.
I have a set of printable forms our girls fill out when they babysit. It has everything they need to know and should a child require medical attention, they can hand them over to the first responders. You can make your own or get your a copy here:
Everyone knows the importance of child safety but once they hit the teen years, we adults tend to back off the parental controls too much. They still need us, especially as they learn to navigate social media and internet safety.
When our oldest went into high school, we knew we needed a more reliable means of communication besides the watch our phone service offered. But I was 110% against getting our daughter a smartphone as we knew the online dangers teens face.
We discussed our concerns with an associate who knew exactly what we were looking for and gave us the pros and cons of the phones available for teens.
She told us that flip phones were not like they used to be. Nowadays a young person can access email and the internet on a flip phone with zero ways to monitor or restrict. That was definitely not what we were looking for.
However, Verizon has a nice setup where we can monitor not only our daughter’s usage but screen who she converses with via messages/calls, approve every number in her phone, approve all apps, and shut off WiFi at a set time every day.
This was definitely what we were looking for. As parents, it is our responsibility to help our children navigate this world of technology and social networking and with online predators, bullying, etc., we cannot be too careful.
We decided on the phone and have been very happy with the amount of parental control we have which allows our daughter to make safe choices and still connect with family and friends and access all the games and videos, etc.
As we set it up, we sat down with our daughter to go over any apps she wanted on her phone. We talked about online safety and why we won’t allow her to have certain apps, answered all of her questions, and did our best to teach her the ins and outs of responsible phone usage.
Being open with our children helps them to make informed decisions on their own even when we are not around to help them. We want them to know what to look for and what to avoid and why.
Every night our daughter checks her phone in with us and there are rules about where she may take her phone. One day those rules might change but for now, while she’s still learning to balance, we will keep one hand on her bike until we feel she’s ready for us to let go and pedal on her own.
One of the best things we ever did for our peace of mind was to buy a doorbell with a built-in camera. Smart doorbells are gaining traction with people tired of package theft or those who just want to know who is at their house when it’s vacant.
For us, having a smart doorbell meant an extra safety measure for our children whenever they are home alone.
After shopping around we decided on the RING doorbell which not only alerts us to motion but records it, too. It also has a feature where those in your neighborhood who also have Ring doorbells can share things of interest or concern. It’s a nice feature to have.
With this doorbell, if someone rings the door, we have the option of talking to them directly or just monitoring them as they drop off packages, etc.
Our girls know they are never to answer the door if we are not home but with this doorbell, we can tell them if it’s Grandma and they can let her in, without them ever needing to converse with whoever is on the other side of the door.
AND, a lot of home insurance companies will lower your rates if your home has one. (win/win)
If a smart doorbell isn’t for you, at the very least, get a dog.
We have both. 🙂
Whether you are a new parent or have several children, it’s always a good idea to get a refresher in this area. And learning from other parents and what they have found helpful can be a great way to help flesh out the safety rules for your own family.
Each family is different but we can all agree that we love our children and their well-being is our top priority as parents. I hope you found this article helpful.
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