Teaching children safety

by Katelin Whiddon

Gone are the days of letting your kids run around town all day and knowing they’ll be home for dinner. We live in a scary world today. As adults, we try to teach general safety to our children. Children learn well by repetition, so telling your children often will help information stick forever.

Working in pediatrics, we try to educate our families on how to keep their children safe. Teaching children parents’ first and last names (not “mommy” or “daddy”) along with their phone number and address is very important. Of course, we hope they never have to find their way back home, but if they somehow got lost and needed to get home, they would need to know this information.

I see some very shy children that refuse to talk to people they don’t know and some children who act like they’ve never met a stranger. It is very important to talk to your kids about “stranger danger.” It can be tough to teach the difference between not talking to strangers vs. not ignoring or being rude. Until children learn the difference, I would prefer children not talk to people they do not know unless their parents tell them it is safe.

I also encourage parents to give children practice scenarios. Other than just saying “don’t talk to strangers,” give specific examples such as the following:

“If someone you didn’t know tried to give you candy/ice cream/a toy, would you take it?”

“If someone told you they had puppies in their car and asked if you wanted to go see them, would you go look?”

“If someone you didn’t know said your mommy/daddy asked them to pick you up and take you home, would you go with them?”

These are just a few examples, but try to come up with ideas of how a child predator might target your children.

Tell your children what to expect each day. We often have several different possibilities of who will be picking up our children from school. We always tell them each morning who will be picking them up that day. Come up with a secret password to use with your children for safety. Maybe it is a pet’s name or a funny movie they like or some secret word your family comes up with that a stranger wouldn’t have any way of knowing. Teach your children to ask for the password and never go with anyone who doesn’t give it quickly.

Teach your children that police officers/paramedics/firefighters are here to help us.

In the event of an emergency, they need to know that these men and women are here to protect us. Talk to your children about who to look for in case they get lost. Typically finding a mom with other children around will be a safe option to talk to if a child gets separated from a parent. Again, this is where children knowing their parents’ name, phone number and address would come in handy.

Of course, we all hope children never have to apply any of this, but please talk to them and do it often to ensure their safety if they are ever put in a scary situation.


A Conway native, Katelin Whiddon is a nurse practitioner at the Conway wound clinic for Arkansas Heart Hospital. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A University of Central Arkansas graduate, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and works in pediatrics.