Raising a child in today's world can be a scary thing. Watching the evening news can be unsettling for parents who see and hear of horrible things happening to children. Since parents can't be constantly present with their little ones, it is important that they educate their children about safety issues from an early age.
The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) points out that many children are taught to stay away from "strangers", when most often, the people who are most dangerous to children are those whom they know. Teach your child to never go anywhere or do anything with someone -- even with an adult that he knows -- unless he has asked your permission first.
Nancy McBride, director of prevention education for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia, says that while parents are teaching their kids about safety, they aren't taking it to the next level by practicing with them. Ask your child about different scenarios to truly help him think through the possibilities. "What if a stranger came to the door when mommy was in the shower, would you answer the door -- even if he seemed really nice?" "What if we were at the store, and you couldn't find me?" Paul Stanley, director of Kids Fighting Chance, Inc. in Chicago, says that when children have a plan to follow, they actually feel safer.
McBride encourages parents to start teaching their kids about safety the moment they start putting words together. This doesn't mean you need to make things overly-complicated when educating your 2-year old about safety. Use simple language and keep it age-appropriate to make it most effective: "Always stay with Mommy." As he grows, the more detailed you can be about the information you share with him -- letting him know that he should approach a clerk or police officer if he ever becomes separated from you.
Teach your child that it is okay to say no to someone -- even an adult. NCMEC warns parents that sometimes children are concerned about good manners, but your child needs to be told that it is more important to stand up for himself than to be polite. Tell him that if someone is trying to harm him, it is okay to yell and scream, and that he is not "tattling" if he comes to you with information about someone who has hurt him or someone else.