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Personal Safety

practical skills for parent and child

Be in control of a set of skills that help protect children from physical, verbal and psychological aggression. A child’s ability to understand Personal Safety develops through education, initiated by parents at an early age and later through experience. But every child is unique in their development and it is up to parents and teachers to judge their ability and skill level.

Childalert provides parents and children with a set of skills that help protect children from physical, verbal and psychological aggression. A child’s ability to understand Personal Safety develops through education, initiated by parents at an early age and later through experience. But every child is unique in their development and it is up to parents and teachers to judge their ability and skill level.

What should we teach our children about Personal Safety in order to give them the skills to keep away from danger?

In the main the most important skill is to be in control of the situation; that is to be one step ahead – to decide on what it is that you are going to do and to map out the scenario in your mind eg: I am going to meet my friends this afternoon – I will tell my parents where I am going and who I will be with; I will get there and come home by bus with a friend; I will be aware of people around me and will avoid any risks. I will trust and act upon my instincts because I have them to warn me of danger. I will say NO if I feel uncomfortable or compromised in any way.

How you can help your child.

1. A clear set of boundaries.

Parents must teach children from an early age about boundaries. These are your parental rules on such things as whom they can see / visit and what they can do, how they will get there and where they may go. The rules should consider how long they may be away and how they get in contact with you if plans change. Your boundaries may also consider and encourage the expected levels of time at home, open communication as well as Internet and mobile phone usage.

Children feel safer and confident if they are managed, giving priority to their wellbeing at all times. Boundaries provide an important protective element to childrens’ lives allowing them to have fun and also be safe.

2. Basic knowledge - the ‘golden rules’:

• Don't talk to any stranger or get into a stranger's car or go off with anyone unknown to you.

• Don’t accept any gift from any stranger

• Don’t eat anything given by a stranger or that you do not recognise as food

• Stay with the person looking after you; stay in a group – don’t wander off on your own

• Only go where you have told your parent or guardian you are going – if plans change tell your parent

• Keep out of trouble – don’t join in other children’s squabbles – physical or verbal

• Tell your parents if you receive any strange or repeated phone, text or e-mail messages even if they are from friends or relatives.

• Tell your parents or teacher about any bullying or physical assault.

• Tell your parents or teacher if you are offered drugs, alcohol or cigarettes

• Report any unusual personal approach by anyone to your parents

• Never go out alone – always go with a friend or two and don’t get separated from them

• Avoid dark alleys, country paths, unlit streets, empty or unfamiliar buildings

• Know how to get help – phone 999 emergency services. Stay on the line so that the police can trace your whereabouts.

• Know your full name, address and telephone details. Older children should be able to call their parents at work – so they need to know the telephone number and access times. They should also have another adult that they can get hold of should they be in any sort of trouble and cannot get hold of their parents.

• Younger children should discuss the safety procedures as outline above. They should be encouraged to repeat the messages over and over again and to roll-play them.

• Teens arriving home alone from school: quickly check the house; lock the door; call your mum or dad; never tell visitors or phone callers you are alone – take a message and only let-in known and trusted people
• Stories in the news can illustrate potential dangers; these may need to be explained without being alarmist.

• An up to date account of your child’s clothing and appearance is useful in case you are called on to identify what their were wearing.

• Children are naturally trusting – make sure you teach them these basic safety rules.

3. Teach and encourage Confidence and Assertiveness

Children need to know it is ok to say NO. This is very important especially for teenagers; teaching children the skill of saying NO is developed at an early age and is linked with developing their self esteem because a quietly confident child is likely to be less compliant and less likely to put themselves into difficulties.

As children get older we need to teach them how to assess a potentially dangerous situation and how to recognise risks.

Parents’ often sub consciously and stereotypically bring up girls and boys differently when in fact they are just as vulnerable as each other. We tend to teach girls to be pretty and quiet therefore lacking in confidence, so that it is not easy to say NO. With boys we tend to encourage them to be strong and in control thereby not giving them the opportunity to ask for help.

It is necessary as a parent, therefore to bring trust and confidence to a child by being inclusive in their daily lives – knowing what their interests are, who their friends are and their favourite locations. To listen and encourage and to act appropriately if the situation requires it. As parents it is important to be vigilant, involved with your child but not smothering.

From this family trust and ‘obedience’ will be established, making all actions judged more wisely.

Parents and carers have a responsibility to ensure that children live within a safe environment but they cannot be with their children all of the time. Therefore it is important to teach all children to think for themselves - to assess a situation and then take responsibility for their own safety.

If we can arm our children with common sense, it would be the most effective weapon of all.

4. Open Communication

You as parents are the most suitable person to teach your children about Personal Safety. You should be consistent, direct yet approachable at all times.

Try to keep an open family communication style so that issues affecting your child can be discussed. You are far more likely to have your child tell you their fears and concerns if you are open and willing to listen.

Ask specific questions and be involved. Talk to your child at their level and do not lecture.

Personal Safety has a different meaning to different age groups; below are some suggestions on how best to teach your children Personal Safety and how your children should react.













Parental advice

How your child should respond

0-4 years

Talk to your child about what it is they are doing everyday. Make them aware you have planned the day and that you are in control and know what is going on even when you are not there. This gives your child a sense of belonging and confidence.

Your child has no sense of personal responsibility – the parent or guardian is in charge.

4-9 years

By this stage the boundaries and rules you have established will enable your child to respond to do’s and don’ts. They will take and understand firm instruction and begin to be able to tell you what upsets them. They will become more assertive and they will be able to say NO and begin to trust their instincts. Encourage this and repeat the ‘golden safety rules’.

Tell your parents or teacher if you feel scared, threatened or in danger and tell them the truth. Say NO if you feel you don’t like what is happening to you. Always be close to a friend, parent or adult. Never go out alone, wait at a bus stop alone, play in the park or ride your bike alone.

9 years upwards

Your child’s self awareness and ability to act develops fast through these years. They will quickly begin to assert their presence and make decisions about their personal safety.

As parents we must recognise their new level of independence and constantly reinforce the safety skills message.

Remember to listen and to be involved without compromising your child’s independence.

Make sure an adult knows where you are, what you are doing, how you got there and when you are going home. Lots of friends around is a safe place to be – more the merrier. Use your common sense, instincts and experiences; begin to realise what it feels like when you are uneasy or are in danger - make a lot of noise, move away from a difficult situation, go somewhere public where there are other people. Do not fight or be a hero - do not go to defend your friends - get help. Don’t panic stay in control. Call the police 999 (you can do this from a mobile), and stay on the line.

True Stories:

1. Sarah and Jackie, two bubbly, bright, best mates were waiting by the school gate just outside the playground waiting for their ride home. The two 9 year olds began joking about Tommy who had brought a silly toy to school when a car pulled up. The lady driver said to the two girls ‘I’ve come to collect you both and take you home. Your mothers sent me. Come on get in!’ Jackie rushed to the car and got in. Sarah said to the lady driver ‘If someone else was going to collect us my mother would have told me or my teacher’. Jackie dashed out of the car back to Sarah’s side and the driver pulled away and the girls ran back into the school playground.

Sarah’s mum had clearly got the message across. Don’t get into a stranger’s car.

2. George was a seriously fit and talented 14 year old footballer. His father had already been approached by two League football clubs to join their Academies and looked like a great prospect for the future. He also seemed responsible and confident and a popular friend. One Saturday morning he said to his mum that he wasn’t feeling too good and that he couldn’t go to his local club and play in the 2.30 match. Mum, Liz, told him not to worry and phoned the coach to explain. The following Saturday George, who had been fine all week, complained of a headache and again missed a match. After missing a third match there were a few questions and stony silences, so Liz took him to the doctor on Monday morning. There were no apparent symptoms other than the doctor quietly saying to Liz ‘teenageitus’. ‘Oh OK’ what more do you say!

A few days later George started to mention a new boy at the club called John. They were both good at football. The problem was that John was better at making George think he was not so good. John had begun to bully George. He would continually put him down, laugh and undermine his confidence, mostly face to face when no one else was around but also to his mates behind his back. What had been such fun with his mates on a Saturday morning was turning into a nightmare.

Both these true stories can be dealt with in relatively straightforward ways. Sarah’s parents had clearly succeeded to get Sarah to understand and obey the golden rule - don't get into a stranger's car. Jackie on the other hand had been taught that but in the heat of the moment, excitement took over and she forgot.

George had become the victim of psychological bullying. He didn’t recognise it – he just didn’t want to go to football anymore and found it difficult to come to terms with why. So by talking about it to his mum and dad they could all do something about it. The head coach was told what had been happening and John was questioned. The good news is that George in back in the team.

Both are examples of personal safety being compromised. The responsibility of parent and teacher is to teach children to recognise the signs of danger and unusual or unexpected circumstances and teach simple but effective ways of dealing with events.

Your child’s Personal Safety will result from good communication and learning. No child automatically knows how to protect itself from personal danger. Parents, child carers, teachers and all those that look after children must be responsible for educating and empowering children about how to protect themselves from personal danger.

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