Sunday, August 30, 2009

Toddler Street Smarts: Play It Safe!

My little girl has never met a stranger. She will talk to anybody, anywhere. While this is a wonderful quality, it can also be a little scary. I was wondering the other day when is a good time to talk to my toddler about “stranger danger” and other safety issues. After doing some research, here are some helpful tips I found on “Toddler Street Smarts.”

- Start early! As soon as your toddler says her first words, it’s time to start talking about safety. Let your child know that it is never okay to feel threatened by someone and to always ask for help when they feel uneasy. It is also important to tell your children to always tell mommy or daddy when someone makes them feel threatened or scared.

- Research shows if you express your fears when telling your child about potential dangers, she won't remember your message, only that you were scared. Practice using a matter-of-fact tone when you discuss sensitive issues. Focus on what your child needs to learn, rather than why it upsets you.

- Teach your child to respond to his instincts. It might be a voice in his head that says, "Uh-oh, this isn't okay." Or maybe it's a feeling in the pit of his stomach. Teach your child to listen to his instincts and not to try to rationalize another person's behavior or wait for a situation to escalate.

- Show kids how to say "No!" and get away fast if someone does or says something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

- Monitor your child. Protective parenting is not about hovering or being paranoid. It's about being a good observer, supervisor and sometimes a detective. Listen to, and watch, your child. Be curious, involved and ask questions. Notice any changes in her behavior or mood. You want to catch early signs of a budding problem, rather than deal with a full-blown crisis.

- Practice dangerous situations with your child and show them how to say "No," how to run away, and how to make a bunch of noise. Don't assume that once is enough. Take advantage of opportunities to discuss this issue with your kids regularly. Role play is key!

Remember, it’s never too early to talk to your children about strangers, feeling safe and comfortable, and the importance of sharing their feelings!

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