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          Preparing Your Child for Dangerous Situations

          November 18, 2002

          Are you concerned that your child might forget everything you’ve taught them about safety when in an actual situation? Dr. Phil has advice for parents on how to make sure that what you’re teaching your kids about safety will stick.


          Teach Them That There Are No Exceptions. Predators are very good at looking harmless, and will never look like what the child expects. Be sure to teach your child that there are no exceptions when it comes to dangerous people, and someone who could hurt them won’t necessarily look like a “bad guy.” This doesn’t mean your child should be mistrustful of every person he/she sees, but it does mean that there is no reason your child should get into a car (or any dangerous situation) with someone they do not know.

          Give Them a Concrete Action Plan. Children do well when they have very clearly defined reactions prepared. Even if it means giving them specific words or phrases to use, make sure that they have a definite course of action in mind. For example, you may find it useful to teach them to use the phrase “This man is not my daddy!” when confronted by a strange or threatening man.

          Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. Talking about what to do is helpful, but nothing will ingrain it in your child’s head like actually doing it. Practicing how to react is the single most effective way to ensure your child will react safely if confronted with danger. Let them know it’s OK to yell at an adult in this situation and he/she won’t get into trouble if they are wrong. It’s OK to make a game out of it, just as long as your child knows that it’s very serious business.

          Have Them Teach Safety to Someone Else. Once your kids have the drill down, try getting them to show it to someone else, like a neighbor, a friend, or even a household pet. The best way to learn is to teach, and you could be saving another child’s life at the same time.


          Talk to Them Openly and Often. No matter how much you tell them that guns are for grown-ups and violence is not "cool," don't forget that they are constantly receiving messages from the media that guns are acceptable. It's likely that many of their fictional heroes carry guns; children also perceive easily that good people (like the police) carry weapons. Make sure you reiterate with them that no matter what, guns are not for children — and be sure to say it in language they can understand.

          If You Must Have Them, Keep Them Out of Sight. Children are curious creatures, and even the brightest kids will get curious about weapons if they know that they're in the house. If you have to have guns in your home, be absolutely certain that they are out of reach of your children 100 percent of the time. You only have to forget this once for tragedy to strike.

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