This page will provide information to parents, to help inform them, to help give them the perspective on important topics that will help them make informed decisions, to get them in the right frame of mind.
Sometimes us parents want to show our kids the things we know, but often that includes things that kids aren’t ready for. Better to remember that kids need to know more about the fundamentals of life than who the Oilers are. While professional football might be very important in our lives, as entertainment, be sure they’ve learned about the basics of common interactions with people around them.
It’s fundamental, and it’s where kids need to start.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE:
Children are watching you and even if you don’t believe it they’re clinging to you and relying on you to keep them safe. They’re very aware that they can get lost or hurt in large unfamiliar surroundings, so they generally stay close. It’s a very good idea to also tell them what you are doing regarding safety while you do it. For example when stopping at a cross-walk and waiting for the light to change, tell them that you are doing this, and mention other things like “even when the light changes to green, I still look both ways to make sure there’s no traffic or bicycle riders that might get in our way.” Or perhaps “I’m getting you out of the car on the sidewalk side so you won’t be in danger of passing cars.” Explaining your actions is fundamental for children to understand fully what is going on around them, don’t just rely on them to understand your actions alone.
MAKE IT A GAME:
In fact you can make a game of it when your child reaches 7 or so, by telling them you are the child and they are the parent, and that they have to get you across the street safely. This is a great way to not only reinforce the lessons of safety on the street, but it also really gets them to engage in those lessons so that they are truly fully prepared when the time comes for them to cross a busy urban street alone. It is also a good way for you to see if they really do understand everything they need to know and thus gives you a chance to work on the things they might not be doing, like looking both ways.
I even made a song about crossing the street I used to sing when my child was 3, 4 and 5. It went like this:
What do you do, when you get, to a street?
Look, Both, Ways!
When parking your vehicle anywhere, but especially around schools in crowded urban areas, remember the fundamentals regarding safe habits. Take the few moments to keep everyone around you in a safe circumstance. Remember, it’s not just your safety that’s important, but also not creating situations that would cause another driver to swerve out of control and into others. It actually seems lame to mention ‘follow the laws that you are required to follow’ but in fact many people do not follow them as noted in the example below which illustrates what happens around my daughter’s school in Brooklyn every day. Can you believe that people actually drive their car onto the sidewalk?
WHAT KIND OF FUTURE DO YOU WANT?
In my mind it is easier to do everything suggested here than deal with the consequences of something terrible happening. Doing nothing when it is obvious that taking your child out into the street to load them into a double parked car, or have them jay walk, or having cars actually drive on sidewalks, are all very dangerous habits and have the unfortunate result of teaching our children unsafe practices. What do you think? Do you want to spend your time in a hospital looking at your child? Do you want the knowledge that something you did set off a chain reaction that resulted in ending the life of a child? And to a lesser extent, do you want to be part of something that results in children being exposed to a tragic event that unfolds in front of their eyes?
Take the time to show your child you care about their life and safety, so they’ll understand what it means to consider their own circumstances in the future.
STAY CLOSE WHEN CROSSING:
It is easy to understand that our actions can teach our children, and other children that are observing our actions, either good or bad habits. My child, who I hope reaches adulthood without being in a pedestrian to vehicle accident often points out to me other parents who are letting their children run across an avenue without having a parent next to them. I can only say to her every parent has their own way of doing things and that some parents don’t fully understand the risk they’re putting their own child in. I mention that perhaps the parent’s parent didn’t teach them well and therefore they don’t know the rules well.
The truth is, children are physically short. When you stand a child next to a car, even the hood of a car can almost fully block being able to see them. Certainly this is why it is so dangerous for a child to walk between cars, but it also is a problem even crossing at the cross walk. Size matters when moving vehicles have to see what’s around them, and children are small. A child darting away from a parent and running across a street can put a driver who thinks they can make the right turn easy suddenly finds themselves about to hit a child. If he/she does, this is no accident. This is pure negligence on the parents part for letting the child run across a street and as such can land the parent in jail for child endangerment.
WALK, DON’T RUN:
By walking, always, when crossing a street, vehicles have more opportunity to see, and avoid any collisions.
This is also true with bicycle riders. All children should dismount and walk their bike across the street. I’ve done this with my child since the day she learned to ride, and we will continue to do it until the day the city of New York says she can no longer ride on the sidewalks (12 years old). This is because they see children on bikes as pedestrians. There is a slight danger to the public is a child bike rider hits a pedestrian, but because of their low weight the potential damage is minimal. So, if your child is riding on the sidewalk, and if they’re younger than 12 they should be, they are in fact considered pedestrians, not bicyclist, and should follow the rules of pedestrians.
As kids get older, say 9 or 10, they might associate safety with younger children and thus reject any discussion with you regarding safety, but as experienced parents who have a genuine concern for their safety we might not know how to reinforce the ideas effectively.
One idea is to allow them to be the teacher to younger children (or you can be the child with play acting). If they accept it will strongly reinforce the rules of the street in their minds, more so than being told what to do, and they’ll get the satisfaction of actually helping someone else. If your child doesn’t have a younger sibling, then maybe their best friend does.
Suggest a game centered around teachers (them) and their mission is to teach the youngest the safety rules for the house, for the sidewalk, for riding a bike. Armed with a mission, and the fact that you’re giving them that sort of responsibility will make for more fun than can be imagined. If you hear them tell the younger one something wrong, just add the wrong item into a question to the ‘teacher’. For instance, say the kid tells the little one that riding a bike without holding on is okay. You could ask ‘if that’s okay, what happens if the bike tire hits a rock, or crack in the sidewalk, wouldn’t you fall over?’ and let them think about what they said and allow them the time to correct their statement. And if they forget to tell something important, like stopping at an intersection, ask ‘what should I do when I approach a street, should I just walk out there?’
Remember, getting your children to restate what the rules are embeds the information in their minds, at the ‘front’, and not tucked away in some far off deep corner that will make it harder for them to use in the real world when they’re on their own.
Give your children the tools to live a safe life.