How do you talk to your child about keeping safe without threatening the young one’s security? It can be quite a balancing act.

I like to use anecdotes and questions. When I was a preschool teacher I would say something like this:

“Do you know what happened to me when I was a little girl? I wandered away from my mom at the shopping mall and Icouldn’t find her. I was so scared. It sure was lucky that I knew my name and my mom’s name. I went to a store clerk, one who looked friendly. Itold her my name and that I was lost. She made an announcementon the loudspeaker and found my mom.”

Then I would ask, “What would you do if you got lost in the store?” This usually led to an animated discussion and suggestions.

This process shows that scary things can happen, but they can usually be resolved. It empowers the child to take charge (in an age appropriate way) and problem solve. It is also an opportunity to prepare your child with the facts he needs: name, phone number, parent’s name, home address. It opens the discussion about who the child could approach for help and what she could say.Preparation helps to alleviate panic.

I remember being on a camping trip once and hearing a young voice calling, “Help! Help!” over and over and over again. I ran down the path towards the sound and found a 7 year old girl standing still and yelling at the top of her lungs! It turns out that she had followed her dog away from her campsite and when she realized she was lost, she did just what her parents told her: she stayed in one place and called for help as loudly as she could. What a clever girl and such smart parents to plan for her safety.

Of course, we do our best to prevent our children from being in unsafe situations, and the above suggestions are not failsafe, however it never hurts to be prepared.

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