There is a fine line between making your child feel confident in their safety skills and instilling a fear that something bad will happen. That line can be blurred by familial anxiety issues, childhood fears and, of course, television. Let's look at a few ways we can teach our children to be confident in themselves and help them avoid the fear factor - while still remaining safe.
When you are three feet tall in a crowd of people, of whom all you can see are their knees or waist, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Everything starts to look the same, it's harder to distinguish a parent's voice from all the other sounds, vehicle noises are louder, and the scariest part of all: it is harder to be heard. If you are a child it can be very frightening to walk down a crowded street or around a bustling mall. Keep this in mind when you are out with your child. Help them feel safe by keeping hold of their hand. Talk to them about what you are doing, where you are going and how they can help. As you instil a sense of safety and companionship, your child will begin to feel more at ease.
On the other hand, if he or she is more confident and likes to act independently, then a different path is required. Before you leave the house, talk about staying together. Ask them why they think it is important to keep close to mom or dad. Inviting them to share their thoughts gives the child a sense of empowerment and lets you know what is going on in their head. Expand on whatever their answer is in a way that lets them know how important it is to stay together. Use a positive speech pattern with lots of smiles and encouragement. Some children listen well, but forget things later so reminders are necessary.
If you have a runner - a child that loves to take off - then perhaps consider a child harness or wrist band until they fully understand the concept of safety. Should you choose to have identification bracelets made for your children, they do not need to know why. It is just a very special piece of jewellery they get to wear. The same goes for ID necklaces. Many families are choosing to have ID kits made up for each child in case they go missing. The kit usually includes a physical description and photo of the child, as well as hand prints. Some even include a DNA component in which a hair or fingernail sample can be enclosed. When you are putting everything together with your child, make it fun and interesting. There is no need to explain the real reasons for the kit.
As adults we are all too aware of the dangerous kinds of people out there. It is very easy to become wrapped up in the anxiety of what 'might' happen. Children are sponges; they feel your anxiety even if you don't express it in words. Focus on the preventative measures rather than what they are preventing. For example, every time you go out in the car you make sure your little one is safely belted in an appropriately sized car seat. To the child, it is just a fact of life: going in the car means sitting in a car seat. You don't tell your children they sit in a seat to prevent violent disfigurement or death in the case of a car accident. The same approach can be taken in crowd safety. As you walk around the fairgrounds or the amusement park the child will probably be looking at all the wonderful thrill rides and cotton candy, but you are probably looking at the condition of the rides. Perhaps you are looking to see if they are in disrepair or if the attendant appears to be less than attentive. The point is the child doesn't always need to know of potential hazards. It is your job to protect your children from danger as well as the fear of danger, while still teaching them to make good decisions. It is a delicate balance.