As a mom of three children, right now aged 12, 10 and 6, I am right in the thick of teaching them right from wrong, good versus bad and safety versus fear. I am learning how this whole parenting thing works, as my husband and I make mistakes, the kids make mistakes, and we learn from these mistakes. As a result, we become better equipped for each situation as they arise or they reoccur.
I am fearful for my kids. I do stress about their walk to school, letting them out of my sight in a public place and letting them go to other children’s homes, and the list goes on. As they are still young, and have not hit the teenage years yet, we are still dealing with the stages of life that they will still listen to us and for the most part value what we to teach them. So, we are trying to teach them as much as possible while they still want to hear what we have to say!
However, with all of this said, I want to teach my kids to be safe. I want them to feel empowered and armed with the skills to face life. I can’t teach them every single safety skill all at once, but with the use of seeing others deal with safety through the news, or from a friend, I always talk about what we would do, or how the kids should deal with that specific situation. I try to use my own judgement of what is age appropriate for each of my children. I try to gage from their ages, what I think they can handle and speak about it, accordingly to this specific child’s age and maturity level.
An important part of parenting is protecting our children, not only from harm, but also from our own fear. If we want our children to be confident, competent, and able to make safe choices, we need to offer them our confidence in their ability to learn and practice skills to be safe, and practice (co-pilot) those skills with them until they show us they are ready to do it on their own.
First, we have to acknowledge that things like tornadoes and lock downs and fires can be scary. The way to manage this and reduce the fear is to focus on the things that kids can do in these situations so that they can feel confident and powerful during events that might be worrisome. Some kids and adults worry more than others and that is okay. Sometimes the presentations of these programs to our children, possibly at school, focus on raising the awareness about safety issues and telling kids what to do while making sure that they feel successful by practicing doing it. When you raise awareness of safety issues without rehearsing skills, it can raise anxiety because you are talking about a problem, but you don’t know exactly what to do about that problem. Practice what you preach.
For instance, in our Home Alone Course with First Aid, each child fills out a grid to show a fire escape route in their home. This is perfect for them to think about their home, and possible exits and where to meet outside of the home after everyone gets out of the house safely. However, if Mom and Dad do not go over this with the kids, then they may have made the fire escape route, have now become worried that their house will go on fire and stress about how they can get out. If Mom and Dad are proactive in their child’s education and safety routines then they will practice with the kids and trust that if a fire does happen, they are best equipped to do what is right. This also should put parent’s minds at ease, know they too have equipped their kids with as much possible information they can give if a fire occurs in their home.
Recently in the city that we live in, Barrie, Ontario, we have had gun shots fired and the suspect on the loose, break-ins to homes, fires lit to homes, and the list goes on. Our children hear about drunk drivers who drive and kill innocent human beings, like we recently learned about in the news to a young family in the Richmond Hill area. As sad as it is for our children to learn that the world is not perfect and humans are not perfect and nature is not perfect, we can still try our best to be as safe as possible and learn ways to avoid situations that can put us in harm’s way and how we can help others, by learning basic first aid, for ourselves and/or others.
Therefore the main focus here is that despite the fact that something may look scary, or appear scary, or sound scary to both yourself, and your child, it is best to not ignore what is happening in the public eye and your town. It would be best to decide what is appropriate for your children to hear about, and then you can talk about the situation and arm them to be confident and informed to help them to be safe.
Be safe everyone, as Seconds Save Lives.