If you’re a parent with young kids, the greatest fear is losing a child. When you are a single parent, you may not have the luxury of having the support of your ex-spouse in watching your children after school or shuttling them back and forth to their activities. You juggle between work demands and your kids’ needs. Safety is always top-of-mind for any parent because the idea of losing them is just too tragic and unthinkable.
I remember a time when I was working crazy hours at a job and I couldn’t get out of a meeting on time to pick up my youngest son, Dylan, from his basketball game. He was 8 years old at the time. I didn’t know any of classmates’ parents because we were new to the community. I was 30 minutes late picking him up from his basketball tournament. I felt panic and anxiety as I raced to find the school where he was playing at. When I finally got there, the parking lot was empty. There wasn’t anyone on the school grounds and the doors were locked. I was relieved to find that one of his classmate’s parent stayed behind to keep him company and made sure I arrived to pick him up. I still remember how incredibly grateful I was that they had the common sense not to drive away and leave him outside of a locked school. I could never forgive myself if a situation like this had turned tragic and he was abducted. It is a scary thought for many parents no matter what age their kids are.
We’re all busy. It’s easy to get distracted and forget the importance of communicating safety to our kids. So how do we ensure that they are safe? Here are some tips on keeping kids safe before and after school:
- If you’re sharing custody of your child(ren), make sure your child(ren)’s school is aware of who is picking up your child(ren) on specific days.
- Make sure your child knows when, where and who will be picking them up. To ensure they have a clear understanding, I often get my kids to repeat back what I say so I know they are actively listening to instructions
- Put together an alternative plan if in case plan A fails. For example, “if your father is not at the school by 3:30pm, go into the office and use the phone to contact your grandma to get picked up”. Just ensure grandma is available for Plan B.
- Choose a location for pick up that is safe. If your child is not going to be at the usual location, make sure you tell your child that you will meet him/her inside the school and not outside and across the street where they will have to cross a busy road
- Ask your child what street they usually take to get to and from school or to the bus stop and learn where their usual walking route is
- Advise them not to take the road less travelled and to always walk where there is they can be seen by the public
- If possible, advise them to walk with friends in the neighborhood because there is safety in numbers
- Walk the route with them and encourage them to be extra cautious around potentially dangerous areas like bushy trails, railroad tracks and cliffs etc.
- If there are streets to cross, ensure your child(ren) knows to stay far back from the curb in case distracted drivers veer off the road or cut corners to turn
- When crossing a side street, ensure they make eye contact with the driver. Some take for granted that pedestrian walk ways give pedestrians the right of way but the reality is that some drivers ignore them.
- Teach your child not to be walking and texting especially while crossing the street
- Teach your child not to walk in front of the car at a stop if the driver has not given enough space for a pedestrian to walk there and especially if walking in front of the car exposes the child to traffic from the other direction. Instead, make eye contact with the driver and walk behind the car
- Teach your child to look left first then right before crossing the street
School bus or public transit bus:
- If your child takes the school bus, ensure he / she arrives at the bus stop about 10 minutes earlier than schedule
- Encourage your child to take a seat immediately upon boarding the bus to prevent being tossled around when the bus accelerates
- Teach your child not to chase an oncoming bus even if he / she is running late
- Teach your child not to jay walking under any circumstance and especially not to chase a bus
- Teach him / her to make eye contact with the driver if they have to walk in front of the bus
- If your child drops something near the bus, he / she should not be retrieving until the bus pulls away
Traveling by bicycle:
- Teach your child(ren) to wear a properly-fitted helmet, and have clothes that are suited for cycling
- Have their bikes fitted properly and in good working order at all times
- Teach your children the traffic rules, signs and signals because they will be sharing the road with motorists. Ensure they know the proper hand signals when turning
- Make sure your kids know that ride in the same direction as the car traffic and to ride on the shoulder if wide enough and safe enough
- Do not let your kids ride in the dark without proper reflective gear so they can be easily seen
- Ensure their bikes have the safety features (ie. Reflective lights, bell, safety flag)
Some of us take for granted that these are common sense guidelines but we forget how important it is to communicate and impart a safety-oriented mindset. Even in short distances to and from school, things happen. Hopefully these tips have provided you with some additional insight on how to make your school-aged kids more safe.