Street Smarts

Teaching your children about proper outdoor behavior can help keep them safe as they travel to school or to a friend’s house.

Pedestrian Safety

It is vital that your child understands the dangers of running onto the street Children running out onto the street is the number one cause of fatal pedestrian accidents involving children. Tell them that they must get an adult every time a toy or a pet ends up in the street. Discourage them from running out themselves.

Make sure your child knows that she should always cross at an intersection or a crosswalk and that she always obeys the signal. Even if your child has right of way, she should still look both ways to see that all traffic has stopped before proceeding through the intersection. Have your child make eye contact with the drivers so that she can be sure the driver sees her.

You might want to encourage a "Don’t cross the street without an adult" rule for younger children. Discourage them from crossing or stepping onto the street from between parked cars. Motorists can often miss them this way. And remind them to always be aware of cars that might be turning or backing up.

Use Reflective Tape at Night

Also, teach your child what to do when there are no sidewalks for them to stroll on. Pedestrians should always face oncoming traffic and be as far to the left as possible. Additionally, ensure that your child has reflective clothing on if he is going to be out as the sun goes down. Although it may not be dark, less day light means reduced visibility for motorists. So stick some reflective tape on your child.

Know Your Child’s Route Home

If your child walks to school by himself, then it is especially important that he knows how to be a good pedestrian. You should also be familiar with the route your child takes to and from school. Ensure that it is the shortest and safest route. Knowing his route will also allow you to evaluate just how long it should take for your child to get home after school. If there is any chance of your child taking another route and possibly getting lost, you might want to consider outfitting them with an ID tag. This will help them or another parent contact you so you can pick up your lost child.

On the Bus

If your child takes the bus to school, help get him out of the house early enough so that he doesn’t have to rush to the bus stop. Teach him not to playfully push or shove his friends, especially onto the street, when they are waiting for the bus.

When the bus arrives, whether it is a public or school bus, your child should always wait for it to come to a complete stop before approaching. If the bus is not right at the curb, your child should check to make sure that all traffic is stopped before stepping off the curb.

Your child should know to stay seated when he is riding a bus. Although it may be tempting to run around, especially when surrounded by their friends, remaining in their seats will prevent any unnecessary falls. They should also know to keep their arms, hands and any other extremities inside the bus at all times.

When it is time to get off, teach your child to wait until the bus is completely stopped before exiting. On public transportation, encourage them to always exit by the front doors. If they are crossing the street, tell them that they need to do it well in front of the bus. You might want to tell them to take ten or 15 big steps before looking both ways and crossing the street. Or, they should go to the nearest intersection and cross there.

At the Playground

When it’s time to play, help your kids have a good time by giving them a few child safety tips. First, take them to a playground that is well maintained. If there are any broken or dangerous looking surfaces, report them to the school or municipality. Teach your child to watch out for these things and to tell you if they see any broken equipment.

If you know your child is going to a playground, avoid dressing them in clothing that has drawstrings around the neck area. Drawstrings can get caught and pose a strangulation hazard. Alternatively, you could just completely remove the drawstring so that you don’t have to worry about it.

Teach your child to play nicely on the playground. Make it clear that any kind of pushing or shoving is just not acceptable, especially higher up on the equipment, like on a slide.

Encountering Others

When a child is lost, it can be a pretty scary time for both parents and child. You might want to consider establishing a plan with your child so that she knows exactly what to do if she is lost. Outfit your child with a wearable ID bracelet so that she always has the important phone numbers with her. Just make sure you never put her name on the outside or somewhere visible. A visible name can help a stranger lure your child by using their name and pretending to know them as they approach. Also, help your child identify who they should go to for help. If there isn’t a police officer nearby, they can look for other parents to approach or, if there are stores nearby, ask a store clerk for help.

Teach your child to never wander off with someone they don’t know. Make sure she knows the different lines a stranger might use to lure her. Escorting your child to school, whether you walk them or drive them, is often ideal but not always possible for every parent. Consider starting a community walk program, whereby a few parents walk with the children in the neighborhood to school or to the bus stop. This can help ease many worries about children finding their own way to and from school.

It’s also a good idea to establish the rule that your child must always tell you before they decide to go to a friend’s house after school. They should also call if their plans change. While it may seem a bit severe, you may want to consider this an "unbreakable" rule and discipline your child if they don’t follow it. Since it is a pretty easy rule to follow, it shouldn’t take long for them to get use to it.

Older Children

As your child gets older, you may consider giving him a key to the house and allowing him to spend a few hours at home alone before an adult gets home from work. There are special child safety issues with latchkey kids. If you are considering letting your child be alone at home, make sure you are both comfortable with the arrangement. You may also want to keep an emergency kit and emergency phone numbers in a convenient place where your child can access them.

Many schools now have police officers coming in to teach children about personal safety. In addition to the above child safety tips, police officers teach children about the importance of calling 9-1-1 in an emergency. These programs are often very effective and many children, even those as young as three remember to call 9-1-1 when an emergency occurs. If your child’s school hasn’t already had a police officer visit, contact the principal or your child’s teacher about having an officer come in.

Be Vigilant

Unfortunately, in these times, you must be very aware of who is living in your neighborhood. Having this information can make a difference in how you instruct your children to avoid strangers. By joining the National Alert Registry, you will be given the names, addresses, physical description or color photographs, offense dates and details and even name aliases of sex offenders living around you.

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