Talk to your children, create positive experiences and build life skills.
Start with the basics:
- Make sure your children knows their full name, age, address and telephone number with area code. Always have them carry identification in their pocket (i.e., not visible).
- Be sure they know how to contact you in an emergency, as well as how and when to call 9-1-1 to reach emergency services (police, fire or ambulance).
- Provide your children with a secret password and tell them never to accompany any stranger, to any place, unless the stranger provides them with this password. This will ensure that the stranger has acquired your permission to pick up the child.
- Teach your child to view Police Officers as friends that they can rely on if they are in trouble. And teach your children to go to a store clerk, security guard or police officer if they are lost in a store or on the street.
- Set a good example with your own actions - always lock doors and windows and see who's there before opening the door.
- Listen carefully to your children's fears and feelings about places, people or experiences that make them feel scared or uneasy.
- Encourage your children to trust their instincts.
At school and play
- Encourage your children to walk to school with friends - not alone. Make sure they are taking the safest routes, and that they know where to go for help.
- Teach your children to settle arguments with words, not fists, and to walk away when others are arguing. Remind them that taunting and teasing can hurt friends and make enemies.
- Tell your child to stay away from strangers - especially those who hang around playgrounds, schoolyards or public restrooms. Remind them not to get into cars with strangers either, even if they offer them a ride or ask for help.
- Always check out daycare providers, babysitters, after-school programs, etc. and discuss your child safety and crime prevention expectations.
- Teach your children that no one - not even a teacher, coach or close relative - has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, and that it's okay to say no, get away and tell a trusted adult.
- Tell you children that if someone has asked them to keep a secret they are uncomfrotable with, it's ok to tell you.
- Encourage kids to be alert and to tell a trusted adult - you, a teacher, a neighbour, a police officer - about anything they see that doesn't seem quite right.
- Teach your child what to do if they're home alone (e.g., to never let anyone in without your permission, never tell someone they are alone, etc.), and agree on rules for having friends over or for going to a friend's house when no adult is present.
- Talk to your child about the challenges they will face in the community (e.g., drugs, alcohol, vandalism, etc.) and help them develop strategies around saying no to peers or bullies.
- Monitor your children when they're online. The best tool your child has for screening online material is his or her brain - teach them what is acceptable and how to deal with matters such as exploitation, pornography, excessive violence, hate, cyberbullying and any other issue of concern to you.
- Let your child know that he or she can tell you anything, and that you'll be supportive.
- It's important that kids know it's okay to keep telling if they are uncomfortable - it may take more than once for parents or guardians to understand that inappropriate behaviour is occurring and take appropriate action.
- Be alert to changes in your child's behaviour that could signal abuse or gang activity, such as sudden secretiveness, withdrawal from activities, unexplained cash or expensive items, refusal to go to school or a favourite activity, increased anxiety or unexplained hostility toward a particular person or place.
Protect your children
- Never leave your child alone in a public place, whether in a stroller or a car.
- Always accompany your child to the bathroom in a public place.
- Get to know babysitters and your child's older friends before leaving them alone with your child.
- Make a list of emergency telephone numbers. Place the list where it is easily accessible to the entire family, preferably near the telephone.
- Prepare a written emergency safety plan and ensure that all family members understand it by practicing the plan from time to time.
- Once a month, check that safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and alarms are working.
Take advantage of or get involved in existing Ottawa Police crime prevention programs like Neighbourhood Watch, Child Print, Home Security Inspections or Operation Identification.
Contact your local Community Police Centre for additional crime prevention tips.