Al Bosworth: Parents: Time for the safety talk
Summer is only half over according to the calendar. The days are still long and hot. Most of the kids have yet to start thinking about school and the fun things like math and what a verb actually means.
It’s also about the time when parents look at the calendar and start to count the days until school starts. When that realization sinks in, the questions start rolling. What will the kids need for school supplies this year? Where did we put their book bags and are they still usable? Is it time to get rid of that summer mohawk and make them look like students again? Then comes the hard part: Do their clothes still fit and can we find something both the kids and parents will find acceptable? The lists go on, but why remind those of you who haven’t had those thoughts yet?
When you do start talking to your kids about those subjects, try to slip in some discussions about school safety. Remind them about all the basics like how, when and where to cross a street. Which side of the street should they walk on? Try to find them a buddy to walk with. Groups or pairs of children are safer. Find them a safe route to walk to school or the bus stop. Groups are less likely to be approached by a stranger and if they are approached, teach them what to say and how react. Do not put their name on the outside of the backpack so it’s easily read. Strangers can and do pick up on those types of clues. Give your child a code word, known only to the both of you. Anyone that is sent to pick up your child will have to know that word. Teach them they cannot go anywhere with anyone without confirmation of that word. It also is a good time to teach them about some of the ways people can trick a young child into a compromising situation, such as: Help me find my puppy.
As far as clothes go, try to get something highly visible. Stay away from dark colors. As the year goes on and the days get shorter, they will need something that stands out against the darkness. Consider adding reflective tape to their backpacks and coats.
Put some kind of identification in their backpack. Kids under 16, rarely carry any kind of ID. If they get hurt, someone will find their contact information. If they have any special needs or medications, add that as well.
If your child will be by themselves until you get home, have them call you when they arrive home safely. Teach them to lock the doors and not answer it. Have your child check the caller ID before picking up the phone. Make a list of who they can talk to and who they can’t.
There is no set age in which a child may be left home alone. But if a question is raised, you and your child should be prepared to explain what has been arranged in advance and how your child will handle any emergencies that may arise. It would help to have a neighbor available to handle any questions or issues that may come up until you get home. Giving your child a task, such as emptying the dishwasher, that will help them show you that they are capable of being left home by themselves.
Start the planning for the beginning of school. Turn off the TV early. Have them find something else to do. Reading a book now can set the mood for studying later. Start easing into the routine early so the transition back to the school schedule won’t be such a shock to that teenage system of staying up past midnight and sleeping ’til noon!
Check your child’s school Web site for the starting times and bus schedules. They might also have the lists of what your child’s new teacher will require on the first day of school. Those school supplies sell out almost as quickly as the popular styles of clothes. It’s later than you think. Better check that calendar now!
Al Bosworth is a fire technician for Vail Fire and Emergency Services.