As your children head back to school, take some time to remind them of these important tips that can help keep them safer on the way to and from school, while they’re at school, and at home if they’ll be on their own.
- It’s more than just looking both ways before crossing the street. While it’s important to always take that step, it’s also important for kids to be really paying attention when they’re crossing streets, walking near the bus or carpool line, or riding their bikes. If they have a cell phone or iPod, it should be in their pocket or backpack while walking or riding to and from school to avoid distracting them. Remind older kids that they shouldn’t have headphones on while walking. They could miss important traffic sounds and it can make it easier for someone to approach them without being noticed.
Walk with your younger children the first week of school until they learn the route and find other children you know and trust in the neighborhood that they can walk with. Tell them they should never walk alone or accept rides from anyone, even if it’s someone they know. If you’re your child is approached by someone or notices anyone hanging around the route to school or near the bus, he or she should tell a crossing guard, teacher or you.
If your children ride their bikes to school, make sure they always wear a helmet and follow traffic rules, for example riding with traffic not against it. If they ride at dusk or after dark, they should have a bike light and wear light colored or reflective clothing.
- What to do about bullies. If you your child is being bullied, talk to him or her how to be assertive. Make sure he or she understands the difference between being assertive and aggressive, which could lead to more bullying or a physical fight. Teach your children to firmly tell the bully to stop, walk away, and then tell a teacher or you about the situation. If the problem continues, talk with the principal and find out what they can do to keep your child safe both physically and psychologically.
Remember, bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground these days. If you child has a cell phone or social media accounts, check them for any problematic interactions. Offer your children strategies to deal with cyberbullies, for example keeping any abusive texts or posts and showing them to you or another trusted adult and blocking or unfriending bullies. You can also report cyberbullying to the social media site and internet service provider. If the bully is threatening to harm your child or sending inappropriate sexual message, you may also want to consider reporting the behavior to the local police.
- How to be safer at home. If your older children will be home alone after school, it’s important to teach them not to answer the door and not to reveal that they are alone to anyone who calls the house. You should have a set time by which they have to arrive home and call you from the house phone to let you know they are there. Set and follow rules about having friends over and when they need to start their homework. Post a list of emergency numbers, including 911, your cell and work numbers, and the number of a trustworthy, nearby adult on the fridge. It’s also smart to practice an emergency plan, so your child will know what to do if there’s a fire or other emergency.
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