So, with the first thoughts of school I always ask myself what does my child need this year; clothes, supplies, lunch kit, water bottle, sneakers etc. When my daughter was younger, the one question I would add to my list was, is my daughter prepared to get to school without me… is she street smart?
There are many tips for preparing your child to be street smart; here are my nine safety tips:
1. Always know where they are going before and after school. Will they be going straight to school or stopping at a friend’s house, and what route will they take. It is important that your child understands that they are not to take short cuts to or from school, but to use an agreed upon route.
2. If possible, have them carry a cell phone. (make sure the GPS option is on)
3. Tell them not to walk alone, the larger the group the safer. Speak with your child’s school and organize a walking school bus program. (www.walkingschoolbus.org)
4. Talk to your kids about staying alert while they’re walking. This means no phone, music, video games or books – you want them to notice what is happening around them and who is walking near them.
5. No stopping to talk or to answer any questions from adults or teenagers. Remind them adults don’t ask kids for help they ask other adults
6. Remember to stay two arm lengths away from a stranger, and let your child know about the types of stories that people will use to get their help (i.e. lost dog, your mom has been in an accident)
7. Don’t put your child’s name on jackets or hats. (If someone is calling your child by their name they might think that they know this person).
8. Just before you say goodbye, take a quick picture of your kids in the morning with your smart phone. This is a great record of what they look like, and what they are wearing that day should you need this information.
9. For those children who might be more anxious about walking to school alone, try walking a block behind them until they feel more comfortable.
It is never too early to talk about street smarts. Even if your child is very young, you can talk about issues such as how and when to cross the street, and how to behave when approaching an animal.
Remember that when you are not with your child your child is in charge of their own safety and security. They need to understand that with freedom comes responsibility, and many children will rise to the occasion while others might need a little encouragement.
The most important rule is to let your child know that nothing that they carry with them is more important than their personal safety. If someone should try to take their backpack, you need to let your child know in this kind of situation they are to give up the backpack and run for safety.
So with practice runs and tons of “going over” the rules, your son or daughter will be prepared to go to school on their own.