Thank you, Amy.
Summer Safety Tips for Kids - Balancing Freedom and Safety
As summer approaches, kids across America will be spending more time outdoors - roaming the neighborhood and exploring nature. Most parents want their children to experience the same freedom we did as kids, but we all know times have changed. So, how can parents strike a balance between keeping their kids safe while giving them freedom to spread their wings this summer?
Dr. Amy Tiemann is editor-in-chief of the new book Courageous Parents, Confident Kids: Letting Go So You Both Can Grow and she's also the North Carolina center director for Kidpower, an organization that teaches kids to be successful in learning and practicing personal safety, confidence, self-protection and advocacy skills. The skills taught by Kidpower help participants prevent or stop most bullying, molestation, assault and abduction.
According to Dr. Tiemann, we can and should give our kids the freedom to participate in outdoor play that is tailored to their match level of development and responsibility. In order to do this, first parents and kids need to be clear on the ground rules:
Kidpower Safety Rules for Children when They Are on their Own
- I will tell my parents where I am going, and I will check in with them if the plan changes.
- Most people are good. This means most strangers are good.
- A stranger is just someone I don't know and can look like anybody.
- The rules are different when I am with an adult who is taking care of me and when I am on my own. When I am on my own, my job is to check first with the adult in charge before I let a stranger get close to me, talk to me, or give me anything.
- If I am old enough to be out on my own without an adult to ask, it is safer to be where there are other people close by to get help if I need it.
- I do not give personal information to a stranger or to someone who makes me feel uncomfortable.
- It is OK to get help from strangers if an emergency is happening to me, and there is no one close by that I know.
- My job is to check first with the adult in charge before I go anywhere with anyone (a stranger or someone I know). I will tell the adult in charge where I am going, who will be with me, and what I will be doing.
- I will have a safety plan for how to get help anywhere I go.
- If anything happens that makes me scared or uncomfortable, I will tell my parents or another adult who can help me.
To Be Able to Follow These Rules, Children Need to Practice these Kidpower Skills
- How to stand and walk with awareness and confidence
- How to move out of reach from someone approaching them
- How to walk away from a stranger without waiting even if that person is being very nice
- How to check first even when someone says not to
- How to get help from a busy or insensitive adult if the child is lost or scared
- How to make noise, run, and get to safety in case of an emergency
- What to say and do if a stranger approaches them at home
Parents Need to Follow Ground Rules as Well
- Stay in communication with other parents who are watching your children, and don't assume the parenting style is the same as yours.
- Check in before a playdate or party and don't be afraid to ask questions and communicate your expectations about how much adult supervision will provided, and how closely the group will be watched. An awkward conversation is better than an unsafe situation!
- When you leave your child in the care of other adults, designate one adult to watch over your child and then confirm they are willing to do so. Do not assume that there is "safety in numbers" during a large group gathering such as a pool party or cook-out. On the contrary, in group settings a "diffusion of responsibility" may develop when it is not clear who is in charge. It's important to do a mindful, confirmed verbal "hand off" of childcare duties every time, especially in these situations, even with your own partner, family member, or childcare provider.
When parents and kids develop strong safety skills, kids can grow into more freedom and responsibility. It is well worth investing your time and attention in these strategies so that your family can enjoy a safe and adventurous summer!
Amy Tiemann, Ph.D. is the author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family and founder of the popular online resource MojoMom.com. She collaborates with the contributors to the new book Courageous Parents, Confident Kids to lead the way to a new era of empowered parenting. These safety rules are adapted from the work of Kidpower founder and Courageous Parents, Confident Kids contributor Irene van der Zande. For more information on Kidpower safety principles and personal safety training for kids and adults, visit www.Kidpower.org.