Being aware of safety is something that comes gradually to your child - here are some tips.
By about the age of three, you can start teaching children some simple safety rules - particularly road safety.
Practise crossing the road and explain why they should never step out between parked cars.
You should also show them secure places to play. Point out unsafe places such as rivers or busy roads and explain what makes them dangerous.
Another vital safety rule is: "Never go off with anyone whether you know them or not - even another child, or someone else's mum or dad - without checking with me first."
As they get older, make sure your children know their full name, address and telephone number. They may not confidently remember these until they're about five or six, so check periodically whether they remember them.
You should also teach your child how to ask for and get help.
What if your child becomes lost?
It's a heart-stopping moment when your child disappears from view, so you should help her to understand what to do if she becomes lost.
- Always arrange a safe meeting place so she knows where to go if you get separated - this might be by the checkout or central information point in a shop.
- Talk about the people she can ask for help - a shop assistant, a mum with a child, or a police officer if they see one in the street.
- Consider safe places on your local routes, such as the library or doctor's surgery.
- Explain that if ever she feels threatened, it's all right to yell, kick and run from the situation.
It's not helpful to tell children not to speak to any strangers, as this can make them worry too much about dangers in the world.
If your child can't talk to any strangers, they can't seek help if they're in danger or lost, so tell them about appropriate people to speak to.
Making safe choices
As your children get older, they need independence and freedom to explore, but they also need to be aware of potentially unsafe situations. You can help them by:
- Discussing what might be an unsafe situation.
- Role-playing so they know what to do when worried or in any danger.
There are lots of things you can do to keep your child safe. Here are some ideas:
- Encourage coping and independence from an early age.
- Let your child take some risks in a controlled way to build confidence, for example going to the corner shop while you follow some distance behind.
- Allow lots of time for free play and messing about with other children - don't restrict them to adult-supervised activities.
- Encourage good communication about what your child and her friends can do together.
- If your child's afraid of trying new things, work at developing a 'can-do' attitude.
- With more robust children, explain that some risks are just too dangerous and negotiate safe, agreed boundaries.
- If possible, get together with other adults in your neighbourhood to take active steps to look out for the safety of each other's children.
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