When we hear news stories about missing kids it is terrifying. There is a part of us that makes us hesitant to ever let our kids outside, ever again! However, we know that is not realistic (or healthy). It is our job to help our kids learn how to navigate their world safely. This means lots of talks about safety over and over again.
Taking a long bike ride with your friends is a normal thing for kids to do in the summer. It should be a normal part of being a kid regardless of the time of year! Yet, summertime beckons us to explore and have fun. Earlier this month, Lyric Cook (10 years old) and her cousin Elizabeth Collins (8 years old) asked their grandmother if they could go for a short bike ride together. The Grandmother said yes, and off they went. Sadly, in this case, Lyric and Elizabeth never returned and now their names and faces are all over the national news.
Authorities say there is no indication of a struggle or foul play. The girls’ bikes were found in a bushy area near the shoreline of Meyers Lake, along with their backpacks. According to AP, authorities believed this week that the girls are still alive.
As a Child Safety Expert, I talk about safety all the time with my family (to the point that they are sick of it.. trust me). Yet, these chilling news stories continue to be a reminder that the responsibility of talking about safety to our kids is never done.
When we talk about safety with our children it is so important that we talk about many types of “What If” situations with our kids. Teaching our children about “stranger smarts” is only one aspect. Water safety, practicing the buddy system, staying on the designated route, street/car safety and using the check in system should all be included in your safety talks.
If your children are going to be spending time out and about in the neighborhood, be sure to discuss your safety expectations with them. Review safety rules with your child on a regular basis and also as they are heading out on an adventure.
Here are some sample safety tips to talk about with your child as they head out the door:
- Set boundaries! Be specific on how far your child can travel by bike or foot.
- Be very clear about water safety (e.g. “I know it is hot outside but I do not want you to go swimming in the lake/pond/pool without an adult”)
- Remind them: do not get into a car with ANYONE, even if they know them.
- Call and check in if the plan changes. (Having a designated “safety cell phone” that kids can use just when they are out exploring, etc).
- Have your child list out the homes and/or businesses they can go to if they need help.
Do your child (and yourself) a favor, give your child some new safety tools TODAY By sitting down and talking about your family safety rules. Keep talking about safety. Don't wait until the next tragic news story before you talk about safety again.