As kids get older, they want to run around the neighborhood and play with their friends. But as a parent, you may worry about your child’s safety, even when she’s near home. You can’t protect your child from everything, but you can take steps to make her safer when she plays in the neighborhood.
Get to Know Neighbors
One of the best ways to ensure your child is safe is to get to know the neighbors. By creating a sense of community in the neighborhood, it’s easier to watch out for one another’s children. It’s particularly important to get to know the other families with kids where your child might end up playing. You want to feel comfortable with the family and their values if your child will play there without you.
You might feel comfortable letting your child go a little ways from home, but you probably have a limit to how far you want her to go. Clearly define where your child is allowed to play in the neighborhood. For example, let her know she can go to the park down the block but no further.
You might only allow her go to certain spots. For example, she might have permission to walk to one friend’s house in the neighborhood but not make any other stops along the way. Ask her to always tell you where she is going even if it’s a spot that is approved. That way you can easily find her.
Teach your child to stay completely away from dangerous areas, such as busy roads near your house or bodies of water. Even a small stream can be a drowning risk for kids. Check the local sex offender registry to ensure there aren’t any potential child molesters in the area.
You also need to teach your child how to be safe on her own. When she’s playing in the neighborhood, you might not always be there if a problem arises. Discuss what to do if someone she doesn’t know approaches her. She should tell the person no to whatever they’re requesting, run away and get help from a trusted adult. Let her know who she can trust in the neighborhood. It might be neighbors you trust, a clerk at a local store or a police officer who happens to be in the neighborhood.
Talk to your child about how to handle a situation where another neighborhood child makes an unsafe decision. For example, one of her friends might run into the street or talk to a stranger. Practice what to do in that situation. Remind her to make the right decision instead of going along with her friend when she knows it’s unsafe.
Conflicts with her playmates can also be a problem when playing alone in the neighborhood. Practice talking about disagreements to avoid getting in a fight. Remind her to ask for help from a trusted adult if a conflict gets out of hand or if she needs any sort of help.