Safe Routes Scoop
Teaching Children Personal Safety: Tips and Strategies

of behavior for your child when out playing, whether or not they are being watched by a parent or some other responsible adult is one of the surest ways to avoid danger. Instruct children to always join a friend when going to and from school, and to never take short-cuts or go into isolated areas. Walk the route with your child pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they need help. A safe place can be as straightforward as a police station, fire station, church or retail shop located along a walking route.


Teach children to trust their feelings if they feel uncomfortable, scared, or confused. Children need to know to get away from that person and tell a trusted adult. Teach your children that it is more important to get out of a threatening or uncomfortable situation than it is to be polite. If an adult approaches a child asking for help or directions, children need to know that it is not impolite to say “no”.   Adults, especially those they don’t know, should not be asking children for help. Children also need to know that they should never go anywhere with someone they don’t know and should never get into cars or go into houses of neighbors they don’t know very well unless you say it is okay.


Parents need to be sure of their family’s rules and procedures and set a good example when out with their

children. Greeting the local police officer, crossing guard, or mail carrier when walking with your child makes it clear that casual interaction with people they do not know well isn’t always harmful. Similarly, making a game or teaching experience out of a safe situation can provide good practice in following basic precautions as well as giving you the chance to answer some of their questions, like “Do I need to check first with you if I am going to go somewhere with someone I know?,” “What should I yell if someone tries to take me?,” and “What should I do if I am lost?”


The most important thing for parents to remember when talking about personal safety and “stranger danger” is that it is both a very real problem and that it should be approached carefully so as to educate children rather than scare them. As with other life-skills, teaching your child how to interact with strangers they will meet every day can be a source of enrichment rather than just another set of rules for your child to follow. Teaching children to make their own good decisions about safety will help keep them out of harm’s way and empower them to seek help when needed.  Teaching personal safety skills can be a way of connecting children to the good parts of our community, rather than simply attempting to shield them from the bad.


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