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Inside: This list of 8 critical safety rules for kids can make a big difference in teaching children how to stay safe. Discover easy ways to teach kids about safety and download a printable list of rules for them to learn.
It took me a long time to be able to write about this topic because just the thought of a child being in an unsafe situation is hard to handle. But the truth is that no matter how hard it is to even think about the dangers our kids could face, it’s our duty as parents to teach them how to stay safe.
Unfortunately, we cannot protect our kids from all potentially dangerous situations they might face in their childhood. But we can offer them the tools that will help them handle these situations in the best possible way. And this can make a huge difference!
Safety has always been an important topic for me to approach with my son, ever since he was a toddler. At first, it was about teaching him not to touch the oven, play with dangerous objects, or wander away from me in the park. Then, as he grew up, we started talking about body safety, rules for interacting with strangers, and things to do in case he would get lost.
But talking with him about safety rules never seemed more important than now, when he is starting school. He will face many new situations, interact with more people, and make more decisions on his own. And I want to do my best to teach him to take the right decisions when it comes to his safety.
So in the last weeks, I focused on finding a way to set clearer safety rules for him, in a positive and age-appropriate way. I don’t want to scare him by focusing too much on potential dangers, but I want to empower him to know how to handle unexpected situations.
10 critical safety rules for kids
This is why I created a list of safety rules for kids that are appropriate for his age and used it as a starting point for more conversations on topics as body safety, stranger danger, and unsafe situations. If you have young kids as well, I hope that this list will be a good inspiration to teach them important rules that will help them stay safe.
1. Know your full name and your family’s contact information.
In case a child gets into an unsafe situation and needs to ask for help, knowing their full name and their parents’ contact information is essential!
Here are the details kids should learn: their full name, their parents’ full names, a parent’s phone number, and their home address. Depending on the child’s age, knowing at least their full name and a phone number is very helpful!
My son doesn’t know our address yet, but we work on helping him memorize my phone number. Here are some great tips for teaching kids their parents’ phone numbers (shared by Megan from themanylittlejoys.com).
2. Be aware of tricky people and unsafe situations.
(Don’t go anywhere with someone without permission. Don’t accept any treats or gifts without checking with a “safe grownup”. Don’t get in anybody’s car or home without permission.)
Teaching kids how to react if strangers approach them is very important! But the old concept of “stranger danger” (that most of us grew up with) was replaced by a better way to teach kids how to stay safe.
And here is why:
- For young kids, the concept of “stranger” is not as clear as it is for us, as adults. (For example, if a child sees the parent greet a neighbor on a regular basis, they might assume that neighbor can be trusted because he is not a “stranger”.)
- Children see us interact with strangers on a regular basis and this might make them more reluctant in listening to the rules about not interacting with strangers.
- In case the child gets lost, they need to be able to approach a stranger and ask for help, so it’s important for them to know what strangers can be trusted in these situations.
A much more effective (and less frightening) approach to use instead of “stranger danger” is teaching kids about tricky people and unsafe situations.
A tricky person can be a stranger or a person the child knows well, who wants the child to break a safety rule or asks the child to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
A tricky person is someone who:
- asks kids for help (e.g., “I lost my puppy, would you help me find him?”)
- encourages kids to do something without permission (e.g., leave the park without telling mom) or asks kids to keep a secret from their parents
- offers treats, toys, or other things to kids without the parent’s permission (e.g., “I have some candies in my car. Let’s go get them!”)
- asks the child to do something that feels uncomfortable or unsafe (e.g., touching, inviting them in their house or car, etc).
One idea that I found very helpful is teaching kids four magic words in case they are approached by a tricky person: no, go, yell, tell. First, they need to say “no”, and run away from that person. If necessary, they need to know that they are allowed to yell and ask for help. Also, they should always tell a safe person what happened as soon as possible.
Another important thing to teach school-aged kids is to never leave school with another person besides their parents (or the person assigned to pick them up on a regular basis). Let them know that if you ever need to send someone else to pick them up you would let them know in advance, so they should never leave with a person who is claiming to be sent by you.
3. If you ever find yourself in an unsafe situation, you are allowed to yell and not be polite.
We often tell our kids how important it is to be polite with other people and not yell. But they also need to know that in case of an unsafe situation they are allowed to break these rules and say no to anyone, yell for help, or do anything necessary to escape from the situation.
It’s also important for kids to know that they should always fight back if someone tries to grab them and shout “Help me! This is not my parent!” to alert people around them and get help.
4. You are the boss of your body. No one is allowed to touch your private parts or touch your body in a way that feels uncomfortable.
All kids should learn body safety rules even from an early age. A great book for teaching them about body safety is “I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private” by Kimberly King.
Kids need to know what their private parts are (and their correct names) and that no one is allowed to touch them. Also, no one is allowed to ask kids to touch their private parts.
One good way to teach kids about inappropriate touching is by telling them about safe vs. unsafe touches. Unsafe touches are those involving their private parts, but also any other touches that happen without their consent or make them feel uncomfortable.
5. If you get lost, stay where you are. You can yell to let people know you are lost or approach another mom to get help.
Getting lost is a very frightening experience for a child, so having a plan in place is essential. The best way to teach them to react is to stay where they are because this will make it easier for the parent (or the person accompanying them) to find them.
For older kids, you can always set a meeting point anytime you go to a crowded place and agree with the child to meet you there if they get lost.
6. Trust your gut, and don’t do anything that feels uncomfortable.
Another helpful thing to teach kids is to listen to their instincts when something feels unsafe or frightening. Telling kids about “warning signs” like a strange sensation in their tummy, or an “inside voice” telling them that something is not right will help them be more aware of potentially dangerous situations.
This will also help them make good choices when faced with situations when other kids (even their friends) “dare” them to do something that feels unsafe or uncomfortable.
7. Never keep secrets from your parents.
Kids need to know that they should never keep secrets from their parents. Also, they need to know that no one is allowed to ask them to keep a secret from their parents and that they should tell right away if this happens.
It is also very important for kids to know that they will not get in trouble for telling parents about an unsafe situation they went through. It is never their fault if they were exposed to an unsafe situation, and the parents will always help them, no matter what.
8. Always remember the basic rules that keep you safe: Never play with dangerous things like fire, knives, or guns. Never go to the swimming pool unattended. Always follow road safety rules.
Even if kids know basic safety rules from an early age, they might be tempted to break the rules when they are in a group of kids.
This is why it’s important to remind them that playing with fire, knives, guns, or other dangerous things is not allowed no matter what other kids do. Also, they should never go anywhere with their friends without checking with a safe grownup first (e.g., going to the pool without adult supervision).
(This last rule on the list can be adjusted depending on the situations your child is more likely to be faced with.)
Safety rules for kids: Helpful resources for parents
When it comes to safety rules for kids, here are some great resources that I discovered while researching ways to teach my son about safety:
- Safety Ever After is a site that provides valuable information about child safety: a list of rules for kids, red flags parents should watch for, and prevention tips for families.
- Pattie Fitzgerald, the creator of the Safety Ever After programs, is also the author of “Super Duper Safety School: Safety Rules For Kids & Grown-Ups!“, a book that teaches children (ages 4 and up) about safety.
- “I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private” by Kimberly King is a great book for teaching kids about body safety.
I hope that the tips in the article will help you teach your kids more easily about all the important rules they need to know to stay safe!
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