My Dad recently e-mailed me a video link of a 5-year-old girl calling 911 because her father was having trouble breathing and was experiencing chest pain. The video is from January, but it will never be considered outdated.
Click on the link below – video courtesy of the Bonnie Hunt Show (I had to take the embedded video out, sorry – it made the site slow down significantly)
My first thought upon watching it was wow – what an incredibly calm and composed child! We all can learn a lot about how to handle emergencies from Savannah’s brave example.
It got me thinking about how well Ryan is equipped to handle this type of situation and what we can expect from children of various ages and stages of maturity in similar situations.
911.gov defines an emergency as the following:
An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance. Examples include:
- A fire
- A crime, especially if in progress
- A car crash, especially if someone is injured
- A medical emergency, such as someone who is unconscious, gasping for air or not breathing, experiencing an allergic reaction, having chest pain, having uncontrollable bleeding, or any other symptoms that require immediate medical attention
If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, officials recommend calling 911 and letting the call-taker determine whether you need emergency help.
Then there is the issue of stranger danger. Ryan is 3.5 and knows his first, middle and last names, as well as his address. We haven’t begun working on our phone number but had a good opportunity to discuss stranger danger when he went on his first school field trip last month. We went over the scenarios that were drilled into me as a kid – modern versions of “if a man comes up to you and tells you he has candy in his car, what do you do?” – because today candy won’t get you as far as an iPod, a dog or an Xbox and some ‘bad’ strangers are (gasp!) women. I explained that when I was little, we had a secret word if someone was going to pick me up from school other than my parents and if that person didn’t know the word, they could not go home with me.
Then I realized that beyond that, I didn’t really know how to adequately prepare Ryan – how to define a stranger, how to initiate this conversation with a 3-year-old. One thing that I do know is that teaching these important lessons requires ongoing, open communication between parent and child.
Here are 10 tips on broaching the subject of stranger danger that may be helpful:
1. Not all strangers are dangerous. For a young child, you need to define a stranger as someone they don’t know. There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ strangers. For example, the person in the store who sells Mommy a bottle of vodka is a ‘good’ stranger The reason why this is important is so that the child knows that there are people he/she can turn to in a scary situation.
It is also important not to frighten your child. He/she shouldn’t feel like they are in constant danger. Explain that there are more ‘good’ strangers than ‘bad’, but that we need to know what to do if we encounter a ‘bad’ stranger. We should instill confidence in our children, teaching these lessons are meant to empower, not to frighten.
2. ‘Good’ strangers are people like policemen, security guards, teachers, etc. If you need help, these are good people to turn to. Unfortunately, these ‘good’ strangers cannot be found on every street corner so we need to give children tools that they can use on their own.
3. Know your name, address and phone number by heart.
4. Never go anywhere alone – always have a buddy with you and tell a parent if your plans or normal route changes.
5. If somebody walks up to you, you don’t have to talk to them. Do not accept anything from a stranger, just walk away. Do not leave or get into a car with a stranger no matter what he/she tells you. If the person says they know your Mom or got a call from your Dad, do not believe them. If your Mom or Dad wanted you to go with this person, they would have told you. Trust your judgment – if you get a bad feeling from them, walk away.
6. If someone grabs you, do whatever you can to get away, even if that means kicking, biting and screaming for help. Screaming, “You aren’t my Dad/Mom!” is a great way to alert people nearby.
7. Use a code word for special situations. I think that was and still is a useful tool. If Aunt Liz is picking your child up from school, Aunt Liz needs to know the code word, even if your child recognizes her.
8. Teach your child that everyone has private areas that nobody is allowed to touch or see. If someone crosses that line, do not keep it a secret. Talk to a trusted adult.
9. Do not put your child’s name on anything visible to strangers. If a stranger calls out your child’s name, your child will immediately trust him/her.
10. It is a good idea to keep a whistle, cell phone or other age-appropriate item within reach (backpack, pocket, etc) to alert people should you need help.
Practice real-life scenarios with your child that fit your family and lifestyle. Scenarios using familiar names and places will make the most sense to your child. Happy teaching!