As a mother to two very active and exuberant young boys, I can testify firsthand that walking along the street, or even inside a public carpark, can give me multiple heart attacks and cause me to grab my boys’ hands with a vice-like grip!
I’ve lost track of the countless times I have screamed at my galloping son to “Stop now!” or sprinted across the car park to whisk him out of harm’s way in the nick of time. A quick chat with other mummies revealed that my boys’ behavior is pretty much for the norm for the typically impulsive and excitable toddler.
Teaching our children street safety can seem an impossible feat at times, but it’s a needful albeit tedious exercise.
Here are some ways you can coach your kids in adopting safety measures when walking in public, especially along busy roads.
1. Set specific limits
For familiar environments, set in stone some physical limits for your children using actual boundary markers in the area. For example, my boys used to charge out of the lift at full force, and since we live in a HDB flat, they might sometimes run out onto the small road. (Cue heart attack!) Yelling at them to stop, or forcing them to walk beside us and not run at all did not seem to work for us. Instead, we have used the design of the tiles on the HDB ground floor to our advantage. The boys now know that they can run around in the void deck, and when they come out of the lift, but they have to stop in the big square that is nearest to the edge of the void deck, so that they do not go onto the road.
Setting the limit is one thing. After that, it’s all about enforcing the rule and being consistent in our expectations. It takes time and lots of practice for them to remember and abide by these boundary rules.
2. Practice waiting
Whenever you are going to cross the road or pavement, make it a point to go through the drill of stopping, looking left, right, and then left again, before crossing. Even though, as the adult who has taken in the view of the road conditions in an instant and ascertained that it is car free, you know there is zero risk of an accident occurring. It’s about inculcating the habit of stopping to check, regardless of the actual danger involved.
3. Always walk behind or beside
As far as possible, ask your child to hold hands with daddy or mummy whenever you are outside. However, it’s ok to give him a little bit of freedom to walk independently once in a while, especially if he’s older and understands the need to stay on the sidewalk. We have a rule in our family – the kids always walk beside or in front of daddy and mummy. This allows you to keep your eye on them at all times. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to keep your eyes focused on what’s in front of you, than having to keep twisting around to see who/what is behind.
Increasingly, there’s also the risk of child kidnapping cases in crowded public areas, so you don’t want to take any chances. Always be aware of where your child is in relation to you.
4. Teach through the power of observation
Make the most of every opportunity to teach your child safety rules. For example, when you’re on public transport or driving, point out good pedestrian behavior to your child, as well as dangerous ones. Describe road signs and their meaning, Explain why cars need to stop at the red light. Involve your child in watching out to see if the next light is green, amber or red. If you run into an accident, help your child to realize how life-threatening such events can be.
By Dorothea Chow
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