TEACHING PERSONAL SAFETY
Aside from their happiness and health, keeping our little ones safe is the number one priority as parents. While it’s impossible to monitor their every move 24/7, especially as they grow older and gain independence, there are a few ways to equip kids so that they have the skills and knowledge to handle themselves if ever faced with an unsafe situation.
As parents it’s great to be proactive and talking about personal safety with your kids. Start off with the do’s and don’ts when it comes to real life or online threats (whether it be physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or even bullying). We know it can be hard to know where to start when having conversations about these topics, so we have listed out a number of creative ways to teach your little ones how to stay safe.
1. Role-play – Kids love to act, so suggest an afternoon of role-play with the focus being on safety. Set up scenarios (you can even use props or dress ups, to make it more engaging and fun for your little ones) where you explore safety strategies in a variety of situations. It’s important to keep the activities positive and focused on ways your little one can respond if they are ever in that situation. An example of a scenario could be that your child is in a large shopping centre and they become separated from you. Get your child to respond on their own first, to see if they know the best way to react. If they don’t know, switch the roles around and show them what they should say and do in each set scenario. By acting out their responses, it will help them to feel more confident if the situation should ever arise in real life. Be sure to tie in online safety too, to help educate your little ones on how to surf the web safely.
2. Rhyme time – It’s important your child knows key contact details in the instance they need to reach out for help. Details including their full name, address, phone number and an emergency contact number (such as ‘000’), is information that kids should know off the top of their head. Get creative with your little ones, by coming up with their own personal rhyme or song for remembering important phone numbers (of home, the police or a trusted adult) as well as their address. Depending on how clever you are, tie in key messages about safety so when they sing/recite it to themselves, it will help to refresh their memory on what to do in an unsafe situation. Make sure they know when it is appropriate to give these details out to others – in an emergency situation only – and not to a stranger or unknown person who asks for it.
3. Make play-doh people - Body ownership and understanding the anatomical names for private body parts are key personal safety skills for children. If kids know that their body belongs to them and no one is allowed to touch it they are less likely to experience abuse. Using play-doh, make two bodies- a male and female. Make body parts, including the private body parts with another colour of play-doh as you are making the play-doh people, explain that some parts of the body are public (arms, head, legs etc) and some are private. Ask your child the names they use for the private body parts (you might have family names). Explain the anatomical names by saying “it’s important to know the names a doctor or teacher would use because then if we need help looking after our private parts or need to talk to someone about them we know the right words”. Remind your child who they can talk to about private parts. These people should be adults that will help them to be safe. Practice using the anatomical names at home to ensure they are remembered. Finish the play-doh people by making swimmers to cover the private parts. This allows you to reinforce that our private parts belong to us and are the parts of the body that are covered by swimmers.
4. Family quiz night – Get your family and friends together for a quiz night with personal safety as the topic. Create question cards that cover as many issues and scenarios as you can think of, either open-ended style or with a multiple-choice option. Get your kids to create their own buzzers and have a prize for the winner who answers the most questions correctly. This is not only a fun family bonding activity, but it’s a great way for your kids to learn about safety with one another.
5. Draw it out – Getting your child to draw how they feel in a variety of situations, like at home, school, a friend’s house etc, allows you to gently start talking about emotions. Use this as introduction to talking about body clues. Body clues are the things our body does when we feel unsafe, unsure or uncomfortable with particular people or in certain environments. Ask your child to draw an outline of a body and draw on the body clues that someone might feel if they were scared. This can be a lot of fun as the drawing progresses to include things like, sweating, shaking legs, hair standing on end, heart beating fast, needing to go to the toilet, tummy feeling funny, breathing differently. Get them to talk you through their drawing, asking them to describe their outlined emotions and reactions. Explain to them that it’s important to follow and listen to these body clues or ‘instincts’ from our bodies, when feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.
6. Apps and online games – With the digital world here to stay, there are plenty of resources, activities and Apps available online when it comes to child safety. The Daniel Morcombe Foundation have created a great ‘Help Me’ App which stores emergency contact details, and if in danger, sends out a warning signal when pressed to two assigned contacts, with GPS coordinates of your current location. It also lists emergency numbers such as the police, Crime Stoppers and Kids Helpline, as well as helpful online resources to teach kids and parents about personal safety. More details on this App as well as other great games and activities (including fun crosswords and colour sheets!) can be found here on the following web page;