That’s a word this first time mom wasn’t quite ready for. But, ready or not, I have been hearing it more and more since my twins started kindergarten.
At five years old, my kids still seem little to me. I realize they aren’t babies but sending them to ‘be’ with strangers? Supervised by strangers? Maybe in a home I have never been in? With pets I haven’t observed?
You get the picture.
Although I feel like my kids are still a little on the young side to be going alone to birthday parties and play dates, I’m starting to take some steps to prepare them for what will inevitably be coming. Here are some child safety tips and other things we’ve done to start this transition with our kids:
1. I started hosting play dates in our home.
A couple of times per month, I let my kids invite a little friend over. I always give the parent the option to stay. I like doing it this way since my child gets the play date, I know they are safe; I get to know the friend…and often also their parent. My experience is the parent will opt to stay half of the time.
2. I always clarify birthday party invites ahead of time to see if they are parented or un-parented.
If it’s unclear on the invite whether parents are invited to stay or not, I contact the birthday-child’s parents and ask if parents are staying or dropping off. At this age, I prefer to stay…and luckily for my kids, no one has told me I’m not welcome. I know this might seem like over-kill to some but if I don’t know the family, I can’t just leave my kids there.
3. I registered my kids in age-appropriate workshops dealing with privacy, touching, strangers, and safety.
Most of my concerns are around those four subjects so, that’s what we are focused on right now. There are plenty of groups that offer these types of workshops – we chose to attend a couple that were put on by Child Safe Canada. Our whole family attended so everyone in the house was learning the information.
After attending the workshops, I made a list of my favourite points. Here are some bonus tips for you to consider:
Have an actual discussion with your kids and teach them that their bodies are private.
Not only is their body private, their ‘whole’ body is private.
Let your kids know that people need permission to touch their bodies.
Yes, even hugging should require permission. This permission extends to anyone and everyone…a stranger or someone they know well (yes, family too!).
Have a conversation with your child about who they can talk to if they feel they have been touched inappropriately.
Inappropriate touching is anything that feels hurtful or scary. Try to get your child to identify a handful of adults they could talk to.
Children should have personal safety rules.
What should they do if something inappropriate should happen to them? Saying ‘no’, getting away, telling someone they trust, and continuing to keep telling until they get help are all personal safety rules we have discussed now.
Discuss a plan in case your kids get lost.
Simple things like ‘staying put’ and calling their guardian by their first name (as opposed to ‘mom’ or ‘dad’) are all things you might discuss.
Teach your kids your phone number and other personal information.
The sooner your child knows their last name, phone number, and home address, the better off they are. Parenting tip: change your device password to your phone number and make sure your child is the one to unlock the device when they would like to use it. I can tell you from experience, this works…quickly!
Teach your child what to do if a stranger wants to take them somewhere.
Talk to your children about ways strangers might try to manipulate them (insert cute puppies) and the importance of never going anywhere with strangers without ‘your’ permission.
Only you can decide if, and when, your child is ready to venture out without your supervision. We all just want our kids to be happy and safe and these tips should help get you get some important conversations started.