Keeping Our Children Safe in the Real World
Perhaps one of the most vital skills parents want to impart in their children is the ability to keep safe in all life situations. Whether crossing a street, shopping in a busy store, working around knives or hot surfaces, or going to the movies with a friend, we might imagine a variety of risky scenarios. We worry that children may not pay attention to their surroundings or engage in behavior that could make them vulnerable like talking to strangers. If we are not careful, these fears can drive us to overprotect and isolate our children, thereby limiting the places they go and the things they do. In doing this, we can further reduce their opportunity to learn the vital skills they need to live in an integrated world. By facing these concerns head-on, identifying skills children need, and using systematic strategies to teach those skills, we can help children stay safe.
There are two broad categories of important safety skills: environmental and social. Environmental safety skills include how to deal with animals (e.g., when and how to approach a dog), fire precautions and stove use, public and pedestrian transportation, and water safety. Skills such as learning to “stop, look, and listen” fall within this category. Social safety skills include staying close to supervising adults, knowing when and how to interact with strangers, and maintaining boundaries in physical relationships. To determine what safety skills our children currently have, and those they need, we must consider all of the environments in which our children currently participate, as well as those in which we would like them to participate. Below is a brief tool for identifying the places a child goes, the people who tend to be present, potential physical and social risks, skills that may be needed, and a child’s current ability in using those skills.
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