The keyword here is to empower your child - you want to find a balance where they don't have to constantly feel as though they're worrying about any potential danger.
One of the ways we can ease the load off ourselves is by teaching our children to recognise potentially dangerous situations and appropriate responses whilst putting these ideas into practice for ourselves.
Teaching our children (and ourselves) to recognise what is “normal” in our homes, schools, and local community can make it a lot easier to spot incongruities that may signal a potential danger or dangerous situation.
Dangerous situations that your child or teenager could be more aware of include:
- A darkened area that is normally lit.
- Door locks not in their expected state. Perhaps the storeroom door is normally locked but you notice it is unlocked.
- Someone approaching with a cricket bat but not dressed for sport or carrying a sports bag.
- Someone matching your pace as you walk down the street.
More difficult dangers to help your child or teengager to spot include:
- An injured or disabled person asking for help with packages. This is not to say that we should not offer assistance, but that help should be appropriate to ensure your own safety. Children can fetch a known adult to provide assistance rather than get directly involved.
- Similarly a request for assistance with sick child, a relative or the elderly could be used as an excuse or be legitimate call for help. Is the sick child actually present or is this just an excuse to get us to follow them?
By making an alternative offer, such as phoning for help or fetching someone else better qualified to assist can help us decide the level of threat depending upon the response offered. Is the person asking for help insistent upon us helping or accepting of help from others?
- We all like to help out someone with a lost dog or other pet, especially children.
Cons relating to a lost pet prey upon our willingness to jump in and help animals without due consideration to the person asking and their reason for our help. Children should offer to get help from an adult and not to assist themselves, particularly if there is any request to go with someone to help look for the pet.
By encouraging children to fetch adult help they will learn to be helpful, yet not put themselves closer to any potential danger.
Encourage kids and teens to become aware of their senses: sound, sight, touch, taste, smell and your 'sixth sense’.
When arriving home can you smell something that may indicate a stranger in the house?
Can you hear strange sounds or do you recognise familiar sounds that may be missing?
Improve your kid's memory of what is 'normal'
Enhance your child's awareness in their everyday environment - at home, school, in the street ... anywhere they spend a lot of time. Encourage them to observe their surroundings carefully and become aware of the nearest open store, bus stop, police station or hospital - this will help them access an escape route if they ever need it.
What can you do as a parent or carer?
Be aware of which neighbours are home at various times during the day.
Is your local police, fire or ambulance station open 24 hours?
Where is the nearest place to go for assistance or where your child could go to settle their nerves if they are being harrassed?
Prevention is better than cure - encourage your child or teenager to get to know their surroundings and understand what is ‘normal’ so that they can more easily recognise the abnormal.
For more information about how to best protect your child or teenager from potential dangers, please contact the expert contributor.