The most crucial thing any parent must do is to teach their child how to stay safe when you are not around to protect them.
Whether it’s taking simple steps to avoid accidents at home, or being aware of potential dangers when they are out and about with their friends or around people they don’t know well, it’s essential that children of all ages can identify a risky situation and know what to do.
Every week, children are injured, disfigured, disabled and killed in serious accidents in the home, on the roads and elsewhere in their communities, e.g. building sites, quarries and rivers.
While it’s impossible to prevent every minor domestic mishap, you can protect your child from a serious accident by making sure they understand the safety rules in your home – and know what they are allowed and not allowed to do at certain ages. For example, young children should be forbidden from playing with matches or near open fires, and should be instructed to keep away from open windows and garden ponds.
It’s important that children are taught about road safety too, even if they mostly travel by car. Practise crossing roads with them and let them decide where and when it is safe to cross. Inside the car, it goes without saying that you should always use the appropriate child seats and seat belts for their size and age.
Cycling is very popular with young people and is a great way for them to travel short distances independently. Even if your child won’t be cycling on busy roads just yet, it’s important for them to always wear a helmet and learn some basic safe cycling tips.
As children are gradually granted more freedom, it’s likely they will occasionally find themselves in a situation where they are uncertain about an adult. While the majority of strangers do not pose a threat – and may even come to your child’s aid if needed – it’s a good idea to help your child recognise and plan for ‘tricky’ situations, e.g. a stranger offering them a lift or making them feel uncomfortable in another way.
Sometimes it is the young person who puts themself in danger by seeking new experiences which are inherently risky. While risk-taking is normal for young people, it’s natural to feel frantic if your child is getting involved in illegal substance misuse, dangerous driving or anti-social behaviour.
If you can resist lecturing them, most young people will eventually listen to reason; however, very occasionally, their risk taking results in serious consequences, for example, ending up as a victim of crime or even being accused of a crime.