It’s summer and our children want more freedom, yet we want them to be safe. What’s a parent to do?
Thanks to our media-saturated society, we are well aware of dangers that lurk outside the protective walls of our homes. It can be terrifying to let your child loose in this scary world, but allowing our older children to venture out on their own is both good and healthy. It helps them gain independence, and is the training ground for adulthood.
We do need to prepare for them for this big adventure, however. This summer will be my fourth experience helping a young teenager learn to navigate the world by herself. I won’t lie and tell you that I worry less when she is gone, but I have perfected my short list of safety rules that make me feel more secure and her more confident.
1. Be aware of your surroundings. Get off the cell phone, stop texting, take the ear buds out of your ears and pay attention to what’s around you. You can’t make good choices about potential dangers if you aren’t even aware of the danger.
2. Do not approach an unknown adult who is signaling you to come toward them, especially if that adult is in a car. Walk in another direction or head toward a populated area. Adults do not need to ask children for directions.
3. When riding your bike, observe the rules of the road. Children this age are making the transition to riding in the street and need to behave in a way predictable to cars. It’s the bike rider’s responsibility to be sure the cars see him. (And check out our article with tips on how to get your kids to wear their helmets.)
4. Never swim without an adult or lifeguard present. No one goes into the water planning on drowning, but accidents happen. You need someone there to rescue you if an accident does happen.
5. Learn about rip currents and how to get out of them. It’s wonderful to live next to Lake Michigan and enjoy its wonderful beaches, but it can be a dangerous body of water, with rip currents playing a big role in that danger. Every summer I review the basic rules: don’t fight the current, keep your head above water and swim parallel to the beach until you are free of the current.