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Child Safety

All the folks with children are outside more in spring and summer weather. We are on the go and the children are too. Which brings up the issue of child safety. We all know children need shin pads for soccer and knee pads for roller blading,but we sometimes don't think about "child-proofing" our children for social safety.

The following are some child safety ideas:

  1. Where you can see me .We often tell children to stay where we can see them. This is not useful information to a child under the age of ten or eleven, who lacks the capacity to take your perspective. The better course is to train them to stay where they can see you. Then, if it gets crowded, they move to us. Hold them accountable by using the phrase, when you retrieve them, "You couldn't see me so you need to come where I am".

  2. What happens if you can't see me? If children do get separated from you, let them know they can get help from a clerk or store manager ("the man or lady behind the counter.") Children who aren't in a store, e.g. outside a strip mall, an art festival or the zoo, should be encouraged to look for a grownup with children. It is a good bet that a nice Daddy, Mommy, Grandma or Grandpa will help your child. A helpful adult will take them to the security office or an office where grownups will find you through search or page.

    All children need to know their first and last names and their parents' first and last names. Older children, 5-6 and over, need to know phone numbers and addresses. I also suggest when the children are old enough, they be taught to carry phone money, a quarter or thirty-five cents, which can be tucked into the laces of tennis shoes. Teens can be issued an emergency phone card for their pocket. The quarter and the phone card are emergency items. Train children to tell the difference between daily wants and a true emergency. Keep in mind, to a six year old, not being able to see you is an emergency.

  3. Labeling the Obvious About Transitions and Schedules. Work on having good communication with your children by labeling the obvious, which is obvious to you, but not to the children. At a county fair, say, "Let's go see the bunnies". If you lose a child in the 4H pet shed, don't leave there. A lost child can remember where you were separated if they know the name of where they were or what was going on there, e.g. "We are going to see people riding horses."

    Give children transition time. (e.g. "Let's finish seeing the bears and go see the big cats".) Give them notice, "We'll leave the bears in five minutes". Transitions smooth out moving on and make it less likely for a child to go back for a few minutes and end up lost.

  4. Roaming from Home Base. We begin safety training at home where we keep the children in the yard and out of the road. We gradually let children out of the yard when we know they will come back when called and that we can trust them to stay out of the road. For example, children over eight may go to the corner but not around the block. Be sure to practice "Where you can see me" limits. If a child can't do the limits in a relatively safe, uncrowded environment, consider keeping to known family and friends' locations. Toddlers (12months-36 months) cannot exercise the accountability for the "Where you can see me" concept.

Remember that crowded places require more watchfulness from adults. Have safe fun this summer, and be sure to keep the children where they can see you.

Barbara A. Buchanan, Ph.D.
Clinical and Developmental Psychologist
Staff Psychologist

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