Do your kids know what to do in an emergency situation? Do they know things to keep them safe? Are you discussing safety regularly at home as a family?
We’re not- at least her weren’t.
Then one day it happened, the smoke detector went off in the kitchen. I had been cooking dinner at the time & the oven was apparently long overdue for a cleaning so there was a little bit of smoke- no emergency.
But the kids didn’t even flinch….they weren’t bothered by it at all. But what if there was actually an emergency? This event of the smoke detector going of and us hopping onto a chair to silence it had happened before….clearly a few too many times. We had inadvertently taught the kids it was ok when the smoke detector went off.
It is most certainly not ok.
I spent the rest of that night drilling into them over and over that if the smoke detector ever goes off in the house and mommy or daddy doesn’t get up on the chair to stop it they need to run out of the house immediately. I said it over and over until I tucked them in and kissed them goodnight…I contemplated a family fire drill.
Then I spent a sleepless night mulling over what else I possibly could have screwed up and not taught them about their own safety?
- Did they know my telephone number?
- What about our address?
Could they actually call emergency services if they needed to??? (I mean I know they can break into our iPhones and access YouTube but could they actually get help?)
What else had we missed?
After a sleepless night I was determined to have some sort of family action plan in place with and by morning I had identified the top 5 things the kids needed to know TODAY.
While safety and emergency planning are important to start teaching at any age, I was also conscious to not put my own anxieties on the kids and wanted to make learning the ‘tough stuff’ as calm and fun as possible. My son is just about 3 so most of my teachings have been directed toward my 5 1/2 year old daughter, but he’s picked up more than you would believe.
This is the list of the 5 things we started teaching the kids right then and there. This list made sense to our family but yours may be different.
1. How to actually make a phone call on your mobile.
OK I hate to admit it but maybe once or twice (ok maybe a bit more ) I have handed the kids my phone to appease them, but only to get around SuperValu the day before Christmas Eve & once at a doctors apportionment but never more than that (right? Of course!)
Kids these days are pretty tech savvy. Ours can navigate my music library, photo archive and even access YouTube on my phone but could they ever make a call with it?
Phones are anything but phones these days but there are some pretty accessible features which make them so easy even a 3 year old can use. After making sure our key people to call were in the favourites and with clearly identifying pictures, it didn’t take long to show the kids three simple steps to call daddy on my iPhone:
Touch the Phone
Touch the Star
Touch Daddy’s Picture
This one was easy to practice and comes in handy when I need to call daddy while I’m driving if the phone isn’t plugged into blue tooth….both kids can do it for me from their car seats.
Dialling emergency services is a bit trickier. You can’t really practice this one too much. But we’ve talked the 5 year old through the steps. We’ve also made the decision to keep the landline in the house primarily for this reason & placed it somewhere where she can reach it. In a real emergency could you find your mobile or landline quicker in your house? I never seem to know where I laid my mobile so I doubt my kids would find it if they needed.
2. Their Home Address
Teaching a child to call for help is only truly effective if they can tell help where to come. It’s important for children to know the answer to the questions ‘where are you?’ and ‘what is your address?’
To teach this we used backwards chaining- starting with the last piece of info first and adding pieces backwards until we get to the beginning,
- County Cork
- Our Village, County Cork
- Our Estate, Our Village, County Cork
- Our House #, Our Estate, Our Village, County Cork
- We a practiced it in the car any time we drove up the our house… let’s face it families always seem to be going and therefore coming home, this one gets a lot of practice & we’ve even added a few simple directions on how to find our house.
3. Mom/Dad’s Phone Number
Before knowing your number its important all children know your own first and last name! Remember the first time your finally got it that you are not only just ‘Mommy” or “Daddy” but you are actually someone with a name! Don’t over look this small detail.
The kids know our names so we started about teaching them at least one of our numbers. Initially we made some feudal attempts at singing or chanting my phone number but that was painful and ineffective in this house. I eventually went to the all powerful, all knowing Pinterest & found how to teach kids to memories their phone number from creaksidelearning.com.
Together we traced 3 hands on a piece of paper and I broke the number down into 3 chunks. The paper was taped to the front door and every time we went out or came in, we each gave the paper three high -5s and chanted the phone number. Within days she had it memorised and younger brother wasn’t long behind her (albeit I am not sure he actually knows what it is if he was asked, maybe).
4. A Meeting Point
I had already drilled into their heads to get out of the house in the event of a fire but what would the kids do once outside? We needed a meeting point. After agreeing on a safe spot in the garden we identified this as our meeting spot. (We live pretty rural so a safe neighbour wasn’t an option for us but would certainly be something to consider). We instructed the kids that in the event of the fire they are to go to this spot and wait there. To under no circumstances go back to the house.
We had an impromptu family photo shoot in this very spot. We giggled and snapped lots of selfies. We text them to our family & did all sorts of things to burn this spot, this tree into the kids minds. And of course my kids know the way around the photo album on both our phones- they’ve kept this spot live in their minds by seeing it often.
5. Family Codeword
A family codeword is an agreed to secret word that when used, a young child knows the person can be trusted. Something memorable but common.
Here’s the stuff nightmares are made of:
You’re at the park and for a minute you can’t see your child. A stranger walks up to them and says “Honey mommy is hurt you need to come with me.” What does your child do?
We hadn’t really talked about this before. Sometimes I like living in a bubble where the world is awesome and no one hurts kids. But let’s face it that is not reality- even in Ireland. It’s better to plan and teach your children this:
Stranger: “Honey mommy is hurt you need to come with me?”
Your Child: staying back, “what’s the codeword?”
Stranger: “what are you talking about, you need to come with me quick”
Your Child: runs away screaming for help
The simplest rule: A child should NEVER go with a stranger who doesn’t know your codeword unless they are a police officer.
Family codewords have some other really great uses and different uses for older children/teens, but one nightmare scenario is enough for me today so if you want to read more check out
Do you teach your kids what they need to be safe in an emergency? Share with us your families most important things to know!