As parents, we always look for ways to keep our kids safe. Here are some ideas that other parents have come up with:
Bicycle Helmet Rewards
To encourage my children to wear their bicycle helmets and follow safety rules, I took a cue from football.
Each time my children followed our family's bicycle safety rules — and I caught them staying off the street or wearing a helmet without being told — they got to put a sticker on their helmet. The idea is similar to the way football players are awarded decals for their helmets when they make a great play during a game. I found that rewarding safe bike riding was more successful than nagging my children to follow the rules.
It's hard to explain to children who they can and can't trust, without making all strangers out to be scary. Here's what we did to ensure our children weren't overly trusting of the wrong person.
Each child had a "kid code." For instance, Zach's code was "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego." We made a big deal out of giving them their codes — a ceremony of secrecy — to emphasize the importance of keeping it a secret.
Zach and his sisters knew that if anyone other than their parents wanted to take them anywhere, that person had to be able to say their kid code. If the stranger didn't know the code, my children were not allowed to go with that person, but should instead quickly go in the opposite direction.
To help my girls learn their vital contact information, such as their name, address and phone number, I developed Jenny's Beauty Salon.
Each morning, I line up brushes, ponytail holders and detangling spray. "Who has an appointment?"
Sophie, 6, usually arrives first.
"Name?" I ask, glancing at an imaginary schedule.
"Sophie," she answers, smiling.
As I ease a brush through her tangles, she cheerfully recites her address, and when requested, her phone number. If she stumbles, I prompt her, and she repeats the information. When she's done, I glance again at the pretend pad and nod.
"Yes, here you are."
Carrie, 4, climbs into my lap next, and I repeat the questions as I braid her hair. The girls think it's a game, but I know it's a way to teach an essential safety lesson — while brushing their hair.
"She's busy," my friend's son told me over the phone. I felt put off by not getting through her pint-sized secretary.
Later, my friend laughed when I explained my frustration. She said, "I taught him to say that when I'm away and he's with older siblings." She knew that giving her son those words helped conceal her absence.
The experience taught me the importance of empowering children to take charge of phone calls. The longer a child lingers on the phone, the more opportunity the caller has to ask for personal information. Giving your child permission to say, "I have to go now," gives him an opportunity to end the call respectfully and appropriately.
In helping your child develop a script for handling calls, make sure the information is general enough not to be a lie.
Memorizing Important Numbers
Learning their numbers was an important safety lesson for my girls — not just their 1-2-3s, but our phone numbers and family address, too. So I made the digits of our home phone number the password for my smartphone and tablet. To access their games on these devices, my girls had to remember the important sequence. I also wrote our address on index cards by placing the number, street, city, state and ZIP code on separate cards. My girls had to order them correctly. Playing fill in the blanks with our address also helped when my young readers were learning to spell the street, city and state.