For Parents & Caregivers

Keeping Kids Safe

Parents want to ensure their children are happy, healthy and safe. Here are some tips about how to talk to your children about safety, messages you can give to increase positive feelings and suggestions for teaching children about healthy touch.

Increase positive feelings
Let your child know s/he is a great kid! Communicate these messages regularly and you’ll help your child build self-esteem and feel good about him/herself.

  • I like you.
  • I love you.
  • What you have to say is important.
  • Listening to what others have to say is important too.
  • It is important to say how you feel.
  • You can make good choices.
  • When you make choices, think of other people’s feelings too.
  • Everyone is special.
  • You can say “no” to any touch that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • All touching can be talked about.
  • Tell someone if you need help.
  • There are people who can help you.
  • Keep telling until someone helps you.
Be open and honest with your child
Parents sometimes wonder how much is too much when teaching children about safety. It’s important to be honest and open and give truthful answers to questions they may ask.
Trust your children
Children need to feel adults trust them. Sometimes this means letting them make their own mistakes – so they can learn from them. Helping them make good, safe choices, and to respect themselves and others is one of the most effective ways to keep them safe.
Talk with your children about touch
Teach your children that there are different kinds of touch and sometimes people touch children in ways that are not okay. Let them know that if they feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to tell you or another trusted adult. Make sure they understand touching should never be kept secret and all touching can be talked about. Teach them they have a right to say “NO” to any touch that makes them uncomfortable, and in any situation where they are feeling threatened or in danger. Let them know that in these types of situations they don’t have to be polite, and they’re not being rude by saying “no.” And if it’s too scary to say no, that’s okay – tell them to talk to an adult they trust about what happened.
Teach your children how / where to get help
Let your children know they can come to you with any kind of problem. Help them identify other safe adults they can ask for help if they need it (e.g., in an emergency, if frightened or feeling unsafe). Teach them to call 911 and explain that the police are always available to help. Do not use police as a threat when disciplining your child.
As your child gets older give him/her more information
You know your child best. Take your cues from him/her and give him/her as much information as you think he/she understands. Make sure s/he understands what you are talking about before you go further. Stopping to ask, “Did that make sense to you?” or “Is that what you wanted to know?” may help ensure the information you’re providing is appropriate for his/her age and stage of development.
Keep talking to your children
One discussion is usually not enough. Keep the lines of communication open and be sure to listen.
If you need help: ASK!
Parents don’t have to have all the answers. If you need help, employ other resources – talk to another parent, your child’s teacher or your doctor.
Practical Safety Tips
  • Take a walking tour of your neighbourhood with your child. Ask your child where his/her favourite place is to play. Check for abandoned buildings, vacant lots, unlit walkways, and creeks or rivers so your child knows to stay away from these areas. Know the route your child takes to school, to lessons, to friend’s houses, etc. Make sure your child knows not to take short cuts through alleys and parking lots. Let your child know that at any age it’s always safer to walk with a buddy.
  • Discuss with your children what to do if they get lost or are in a situation where something questionable is happening (e.g., peer pressure about drugs, sex or doing something they know is wrong). If your child is old enough to go out to places with friends, make sure he/she has enough money to call you or to take a taxi home in case he/she wants to leave a situation that is uncomfortable.
  • Know your children’s friends and where they gather. Determine whose house they like to go to and why (e.g.,there is no supervision, the TV/videos/computer games they are allowed to play). Meet with the parents where your child wants to sleep over. Wherever your children go, ask about supervision. Make sure you have the addresses and phone numbers of your child’s friends.
  • Know how long it takes your child to walk to and from school. Have your children check in with you before they decide to go somewhere, especially if they’re changing their plans after school. Have your children check in with you when they arrive at their destination, and if there is a change in plans (e.g., they want to move on to another place). Be sure you know how to reach your children at any time.
  • When your child is ready to use the bus/subway, do public transit training with your child (e.g., where the bus stop is, the right bus to take, how to read the direction signs in the subway station).
  • Make sure your children know how and where to reach you at any time, or someone else they can call for help. Post your contact information where your children will see it and be sure to include: 911; your office phone number; your cell/pager number; and the names and numbers of who to contact in an emergency. Teach your children how to dial 911 in an emergency. Make sure your children know their last name, address, and telephone number.
  • If your child spends time alone at home, review the “home alone rules” regularly (e.g., never answer the door; never tell callers that your parents are not home, instead, say that mom/dad cannot come to the phone and offer to take a message).
  • Monitor your child’s use of the computer/Internet, and review Internet safety. Ask your child care provider and child’s teacher what their policy is with respect to taking pictures of the children, including posting them on the Internet. Make sure your children understand that no one should take pictures of them unless they have your permission.
  • Never leave children alone in a car.
  • Make sure that your children know that adults understand that young people break rules and make mistakes – we all do; it’s all part of the learning process. Make sure your children are aware that they can come to you no matter what, and that you will listen – their safety is the most important thing!
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