Teaching Children Safety

Recently, I received an email from our Soccer organization about a suspicious individual who has been spotted watching my daughter’s soccer practices, held at a neighborhood park.  Apparently, a concerned parent made a report to the local police. Upon questioning, it was also determined that the person had a history as a sexual offender.  This experience led me to consider sharing some reminder tips with CHI families regarding safety measures for children.

Personally, I’m not a fan of when my kids have their names on their jersey, allowing any stranger to call them by name and therefore appear to know them.  I advocate for leaving names off of jerseys – or if unavoidable – I use our last name instead of first names.  (Bonus: this also enables you to recycle jerseys for younger siblings who might need them in the future!)

Some other tips for teaching your children how to keep themselves safe:

Discuss the concept of “strangers.”  Convey  to your children that strangers can be men or women, young or old. They can have any color skin. Some are tall and some are short, some are thin some are heavy. Some strangers are pretty and some are not so pretty. Some strangers can speak different languages. Most strangers are nice, but some strangers are mean. Because you don’t know if someone is a good stranger or a bad one you should not talk to anyone you don’t know.

Some prompts for having a discussion with your children are:

· What is a stranger? [A person that you and your parents do not know.]
· How might a stranger try to fool you into getting into their car? [By telling you that your parents couldn’t come so he/she was sent to give you a ride home.]
· How can you protect yourself? [By asking the person to give you the family’s secret code word.]
· What should you do if someone brought a package to your house when you’re home alone? [Speak to him/her through a closed door, telling them your mom/dad is resting and cannot come to the door. Tell them to leave the package on the porch.]
· Is it safe to accept gifts from strangers? [NO!]
· If a stranger stops their car near you and asks for directions, what should you do? [Stand at a good distance from the car, even if they ask you to come closer.]
· If you become separated from your family at a store or mall, what should you do? [Tell someone who works in the store that you are lost. DO NOT WANDER.]
· What should you do if someone grabs you and starts taking you out of the store? [Yell, “NO! I don’t know you! This isn’t my parent!!” and be as loud as possible.]
· In an emergency, how can you call the police or fire? [Dial 9-1-1]
· What is a secret family code word used for? [In an emergency, it is to let you know that it is safe for someone to pick you up.]
· If you come home to an empty house after school, what is the first thing you should do? [Lock all the doors.]

Coach children to always tell parents where they are.  If they are mature and old enough to walk anywhere alone, encourage them to:
· Try to walk with a friend whenever possible.
· Don’t take shortcuts through a wooded area.
· Make sure your children follow the agreed upon route with no deviations unless they get your permission FIRST.
· Don’t get close to strangers.
· Do not tell your name or address to a stranger.
· Never go with a stranger to look for a lost pet.
· Never get into a car with anyone you don’t know.
· Never enter someone’s home or place of business without a parent.
· Know safe places you can go (such as Friends Homes, Police, Fire Stations or Neighborhood Watch homes).
· If a stranger follows you or grabs for you, run away.  Yell loud “NO!!!  This is not my parent!” and make as much noise as you can. 

Together, parents and children should discuss:
· Talk about any places your child doesn’t feel safe.
· Come up with a secret code word to be used in an emergency (i.e. any time a plan has changed and you may be unable to convey the plan personally to your child).  Impress upon your child the importance of not going with anyone who does not know this code word.
· If your child has to ask for help from a stranger, if possible seek help from a police officer or teacher.
· Never open the door to a stranger.
· Never tell anyone on the phone that you are home alone. 

Younger children should carry some sort of identification including their name, address, telephone number and emergency contact information.  Have this identification in a secure location and not attached to the outside of a backpack.  They should know where it is so they can share it in an emergency.  Teach young children their phone number and parents names, as early as possible.  Teach your child how to use the telephone in order to dial 9-1-1. 

Finally, educate yourself on any registered sex offenders in your neighborhood. You can check with your local police or visit the CA Sex Offender Registration page at:  http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov