Any parent’s worst fear is to see their child in a situation of danger. The best way to prepare your children for such situations and to ensure their safety is to get them on board and discuss a safety plan with them. In an age where school shootings are commonplace, attacks on small children are the norm and troubling world events occurring with increasing rapidity, preparedness is the key to making sure you and your family are safe.
Talking to your child about a situation that scares them, and you, can seem a daunting task. Some parents might be reluctant to shatter their child’s peace of mind. This is it why it is important to understand that in an emergency situation being prepared and aware can be the difference between life and death for a child. A person or even a child who is aware and acknowledges the existence of life-threatening situations is that much closer to surviving them. Arm your child with the knowledge of survival products and equipment which they need to survive by preparing them for the worst when you may not be around to protect them. This is why the best place to start when it comes to talking about danger and emergency plans with your children is to be aware and prepared yourself. You and your spouse/partner should be on board a family emergency plan and then get your children involved.
The amount of information that you discuss with your children and the extent to which you want them involved depends greatly on the age of your child. While a teenager might understand and appreciate all the information you give them, a younger child might be overwhelmed and scared by such plans or conversations.
Make sure you are aware of your child’s level of understanding and any preconceived fears they may have before you sit them down and talk to them about being prepared for an emergency situation. Observe how your child reacts to any potential danger situations or how they respond to any troubling news they might see on television or read online. If your child has an adequate understanding of such situations it can be easier to approach them with an emergency plan. However, if your child is unware a good place to start is by having an initial conversation with them talking about some emergency scenarios. You can begin by asking them what they know about school shootings or if their school has fire and safety drills. These will help you assess your child’s level of danger awareness.
Make sure the actual conversation takes place in a comfortable and secure environment. Your child should be at ease. Tell them at the very beginning that they have done nothing wrong and that mummy/daddy just want talk to them about a serious matter. Tell them how worried you are for their safety and that you want to make sure they are safe in case anything goes wrong. Avoid scaring them by describing anything too graphic. Ask them if they have ever felt in danger or unsafe and what they did or who they went to for help. Tell your child that you are having this conversation because you believe they are smart enough to understand a grown-up matter. Make sure you convey to them that you as a family are a team and your child is an integral part of the family team.
Prepare your child by talking about some real life threats they might face and what they should do. Discuss in a step wise manner how they should secure themselves and any younger siblings, where they should go and how they can contact you in these situations. Teach them how to identify danger and who to trust and who not to trust when danger arises. Explain the family emergency plan to them in detail and make them feel involved by showing them what supplies you have kept for them and how they can access these. A bug-out bag designed for your child will make him/her feel safe. Allow your child to examine and explore its contents. Explain what each item is for and how and when to use it.
Because so much of society’s focus nowadays is placed on computers and technical knowledge many children have no exposure to the outdoors. Plan trips with your children to the outdoors. Hiking, camping and fishing trips on weekends or the summer vacations are a great way to teach your children important life skills. These are wonderful opportunities to teach survival skills like making a fire, gathering food, setting up camp and finding safe places to stay in the wilderness. Another way to prepare your child is to read books on survival skills together as a family and then implement them on your trips. Try to decrease your child’s dependence on electronic devices and ready made facilities. An independent child will be able to think critically in a dangerous situation and fend for him/herself if the time comes.
For older children it might be appropriate to teach self-defense. Explain to your child that these skills are only for emergency situations. Teach them to discriminate between which situations might warrant the use of these skills. It is also important to have an open discussion about how there may be some scenarios where you and your spouse are not around and your child is on their own. Always reassure your child after these discussions, reminding them that these scenarios are only emergency situations and unlikely to take place.
While it might panic you as a parent to imagine your child in a situation where they are faced with danger and you are unable to help them, keep in mind that you have done your best to prepare them. Trust your child to take rational decisions based on the knowledge you have armed him/her with. Frequently go over your emergency plan with your child and your spouse. Work as a team and hopefully you and your family will be able to face any such challenges knowing you are ready and prepared.