How I Protect My Children in the City: A Mother’s Advice
It’s 3:30 in the afternoon, and my children are on their way home from school. To return home safely, they’ll have to walk from their school to the city bus stop. They will struggle to find a seat and will most likely stand on a cramped bus for most of the ride. After two different bus changes and about an hour-and-a-half commute, they’ll unlock the apartment door to make their way in. It’s no surprise I’ve had to teach them to be street savvy.
Many miles away, while I’m still at work, I’m thinking about the route they will take to make it home safe and sound. I worry until I hear their voices over the phone telling me, “We’re home now, Mom.”
Living in a big city has many advantages, but it also presents great challenges, especially for children and adolescents whose parents have to work away from home with schedules that do not allow them to arrive home before their children return from school. Teaching them to use certain strategies that can keep them safe can reduce these challenges. Here are some ideas for protecting children in the city.
Set clear rules
An essential part of raising confident and safe children is to establish clear rules that help them stay safe in many different settings. Rules allow kids to exercise self-discipline and to learn to make effective decisions. Every family should come up with their own. Some of the rules I established for my children that might be helpful for others are:
• Go straight home from school.
• Do not get near or in anyone’s vehicle.
• Always use the same route to get home.
• Do not bring friends home when you are alone.
Trust your intuition
Teaching children to trust that inner voice that warns them of potential hazards is critical in keeping them safe, especially when they are on their own. Small things like changing seats on the bus if they feel like a fight between other passengers is about to start or sitting near the driver if someone makes them feel uncomfortable are just a couple of ways kids can trust and respond to their intuition.
Stay in Groups
There is safety in numbers, and this is especially true when it comes to children or adolescents returning home in safety. Being in a group makes them less vulnerable to being targeted by potential aggressors. Also, it minimizes the feelings of loneliness and gives them self-confidence.
Use a secret word or phrase
One of my greatest fears was that someone would kidnap my children, and I would never see them again. (Even though “stranger danger” only makes up about 10 percent of sexual abuse cases.) I was inspired to create a phrase that only my children and I would know. I expressed to them that if someone was waiting for them outside the school or approached them at any time and asked them to go somewhere, they should not go. I also explained that anyone speaking for me would give them a password (one we’d created). That person was safe to travel with. If the person didn’t know the password, my child should under no circumstances go with them.
Time has passed since the days when my children were young, and the city has been left behind. Those who were my little ones and who kept me on alert after school have become independent and self-reliant adults. They now teach their own children the skills and strategies that I helped develop in them as well as the many others they learned for themselves as they roamed the streets of San Francisco.
Decide what tools and strategies you will give your children to help keep them safe and implement them today. Together we can work on protecting children in the city–and everywhere else, too.