While quarantine, for the most part, has us in our homes for the majority of the day, there are more families going for walks and bike rides together. The number of families in my neighborhood I see walking every day now has more than tripled since quarantine started and while this is fabulous, there have been a few issues.
Kids are so bored they are forgetting safety rules
Now when I say kids, I do not mean those who are 8 years old
and younger. No, I have seen teenagers just about hit on their skateboards, heard of some scares teens have had in the woods, and found some things laying around the neighborhood that some young bored teens might be tempted to “just try.” It is just as important, if not more so, that we review safety with teens as well as with our littles. Our littles are just about always with us and so we are able to easily help them when they forget something. Our teens are young men and women who are practicing being adults and tend to need time away from mom and dad. This time away, however, is when they can stumble as they are learning to control their impulses.
It is important to regularly go over safety with your kids, no matter their age.
While there are a number of important safety rules, the ones I will focus on today are the ones that I have seen as issues since quarantine started. While all of them may not be as likely of an issue for your family or in your neighborhood, I recommend you read them anyway and talk with your kids on them. I didn’t think there were some issues in our nice, new neighborhood but it has been proven otherwise.
Riding your bike as a kid is the closest thing you have to freedom and it is beyond exhilarating. Kids will get on their bikes first thing in the morning and ride practically all day, only stopping when they become hungry. While we are locked up, the need to ride is about as necessary for my kids’ as breathing is. My older boy who loves to play Minecraft and avoids all things outside runs downstairs as soon as his work is complete and asks if he can go ride with his buddy.
This love of riding a bicycle is wonderful but it has come with a few risks. The children in the neighborhood, as a whole, is not very aware of vehicles while riding their bikes. The children cross streets on their bikes without stopping at the stop signs, they do not watch for vehicles backing out of driveways, they ride three or four bikes wide down the street instead of in a line, and they do U-turns in the middle of the street without checking over their shoulder for a car. I hope reading all of this made you cringe, it certainly scares me terribly.
We need to emphasize to our kids, old and young, that bicycles are street-legal vehicles. This means they must follow all road rules, including stopping for signs and yielding the right of ways. Learning who has the right of way at a stop might be a bit complex for little but I always told mine, “Law of tonnage, cars weight more so they win.” No that is not proper driving rules but when it comes to kids and other drivers, better safe than sorry applies. We should also have our kids practice hand signals regularly. You don’t need to go out and ride with them to make sure they practice them either. I stand in my front yard and watch as they pass, hollering out “hand signals” when they drive by so I can watch and make sure they remember them and use them when there is a car around. Finally, and the most important one, vehicle awareness. I teach my kids to not only look for them but listen for them. They need to be aware of the sounds around them so they know when a car or truck is coming up behind them. They need to be aware of back up lights and looking for ones that are running in the driveways. Even if there is not someone in the car, kiddos need to learn to be cautious. And kids need to look for cars, around corners, behind big trucks and behind them. Awareness is necessary when we are trying to avoid trips to the doctor.
What kid doesn’t get excited when they can play or use a tool? My kids took apart doorknobs and toys with screwdrivers when they were younger, pretended to hammer nails into my house, and now use pocket knives to whittle and help them lash things together in the woods. Using tools is one of those things that helps kids feel grown and more independent. All three of my kids are in scouts and so all three have been through yearly training on how to properly use cutting tools like pocket knives, hatchets, and saws. This yearly training helps us as parents so that when we review tool safety with the kids, we mainly only need to ask them open-ended questions so they can tell us what they know.
We encourage our kids to use tools but they all know to ask beforehand and the moment we find out it was used in an unsafe way, they lose that privilege for at least a month. Reviewing tool safety is important because as excited as our kiddos get using tools, they become somewhat reckless when they are out with their friends. An example would be when a neighbor’s boy brought out a hatchet to use in the woods for fort building. His friends thought it was cool, they all gathered around excited about the tool, and none of them were observing the blood circle. To top it off, the kid then started swinging it while pretending to be a pirate. Thankfully, I was informed of this dangerous action and was able to gently correct them but we need to be sure to do our part and remind our kids of the safety rules when they ask to use tools.
Finally, we need to be sure we talk to our kids about drug safety. A few weeks back, I was out on my morning walk with my dog when we stumbled across a small plastic baggie with some obvious drugs in it. This baggie was just sitting on the side of the road, in full view, likely dropped when someone was getting in or out of a car and left there. While my kids know about drugs and know to not use them, sometimes helping kids recognize what are and are not drugs can be a challenge. Finding that little baggie in our quiet little neighborhood was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I personally feel my kids are a little young to want to pick up a random drug pack and try to use it, but there are a number of barely teen and older teen kids in the neighborhood who like to show off for their friends and like to try to get the tweens or younger kids to join in their reckless behavior. Once a police officer arrived and had possession of the drug, I went right home and had a lengthy discussion with my kids about what drugs look like, how some people like to try to trick you into taking them, and what to do if we find some or a friend has some. Our discussions tend to have “what-if” scenarios in them and I have the kids work through what they would do in those instances so they feel better equipped for when they find themselves in one of those situations. Let’s be honest, it’s not a matter of if they will be offered it, it is a matter of when.
Even when they say they know, review the safety rules
Our kids are going to say they know the rules. They will say that they don’t need to hear it again and they will beg to just go play with their friends. We still need to make sure we go over the rules regularly. This will not only ingrain in their minds what should be done when they are in certain situations, but it will also give them the little bit of confidence they need to say “this isnt’ right or safe,” and to walk away. I tell my kids all the time, I give you the knowledge, so that you can be wise in what you do, and able to discern for yourself what is right and acceptable. Whether it is riding around the neighborhood and expecting cars to watch out for you while you pull off a fun trick or it’s in the woods and some friends are not being safe, our kids need to know the safety rules and need to feel equipped and confident enough to remove themselves from that potentially dangerous situation. We cannot always be there to tell our kids what to do and what not to do, but our teachings can be.
Be safe, and enjoy the journey with your kiddos.
Greetings! My name is Joy and I am currently a stay at home mom who is homeschooling her three kids in South Carolina. I love learning and I love sharing the love of learning with others so getting to home school my kids and watch the “ah-ha” moments when they understand something is unbelievably rewarding. I have been homeschooling since my twins were preschool age so we are going on 9 years now. I am also a military spouse, so we have the added joy of being a military family with some of the complications that come with it. As a family, we stay busy with our scouting groups, American Heritage Girls and TrailLife, and we do many camping and hiking trips with them. When I have downtime, I am typically reading books I have sitting around the house, on YouTube/websites getting more information on different home school programs, or working on plans for homeschool. I look forward to being able to share our experiences with everyone and help encourage all homeschooling families.