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How to Talk Safety with Your Kids

Help your kids understand the importance of safety with these 5 kid-friendly tips.

While you may find it tempting to repeatedly remind your child to look both ways (and not at their phone screen) before crossing the street, or to be cautious when approached by a stranger, experts agree that the mistake parents often make when addressing issues of safety is over-lecturing.

“Kids today rarely respond well to the lecture, so keep any reminders brief and timed when there is no crisis, like before bedtime or over dinner,” says parenting expert, Dr. John Duffy and author of the best-selling book, The Available Parent.

Here are some of his expert tips on helping them stay safe.

Be playful.

This is especially important when it comes to younger kids. “Kids are far more likely to respond to a creative, playful method for addressing these issues,” says Dr. Duffy. You can even create a game of it, bringing up questions like, “OK, so what do you do when approached by a stranger? Answer, go!” Give treats or prizes for good answers. Even better? Get a few laughs with silly answers before coming to the right one.

Let them be the expert.

Give your kids some credit. Dr. Duffy affirms that children are savvy at finding information out on their own. “This doesn’t mean that they don’t need to practice rehearsing it, but often times you’re not teaching them something new. Let her tell you what she needs to do if she’s home alone or approached by a stranger. You may learn that she has a creative way to address the situation that you may not have otherwise thought of.”

Just label it.

Concerned about your child’s journey to-and-from school? Writing your child’s bus number and bus driver's name in their jacket or lunchbox is an indirect way of helping them remember. If they are walking home, keep a note in an inside pocket that reminds them what routes to take. These gentle reminders allow them to think for themselves, and feel safe knowing they have a backup if they forget.

Keep instructions short and easy.

Most kids won’t remember the drawn-out details. Dr. Duffy suggests that passwords be an acronym that the whole family can memorize, regardless of age. “One family realized that their password translated into the word BURP. As you might guess, none of the kids will ever forget it,” he says.

Embrace being wired.

Dr. Duffy encourages parents to have their kids make good use of their electronics. “Integrating technology into your safety plan is critical,” he says. “When I gave a password, keyword or lock code, one child plugged it into Notes on her phone, even having the wherewithal to add a phony title, naming it: grocery list for mom.”