Tweak your tween's safety skills before school starts

Tweak your tween's safety skills before school starts

Please welcome today's guest poster Kim Estes. Kim is a child safety expert with 15 years of experience educating parents who works tirelessly to help us keep our kids safe and found of Savvy Parents, Safe Kids with her tips for tween parents about working with kids to make sure that their safety skills are fresh as they head back to school. This is another installment in our Back to School series - find all the posts here.

Back to school preparation has started. We are spending lots of money, and endless hours, shopping for clothes and back to school essentials. We fret over how to prepare healthy lunches and snacks. We update forms and we make appointments for haircuts and check ups. Yet we often overlook updating our tweens safety skills.

I wish adults would fret a bit more about their child's safety health. That we would update and replace old safety skills with the promptness that we replace worn backpacks and outgrown clothing.

The "tween" years are defined as those years "in between." The ages of 8-12 represents a huge leap for kids and their parents. Back to school is a critical time to review and tend to your tween's growing safety needs. Plan ahead now and your won't be as likely to be caught off guard later.

Here are some basic tween safety skills that parents should be thinking about, talking about and practicing with their tween:

Checking In

Tweens start to crave more independence from their parents and most noticeably parents will no longer be hanging out with their tweens at play dates (oh, I was also informed by my tween that they no longer refer to them as "play dates," either). Tweens will often start wanting to explore their neighborhood without a grown up tagging along.  This can be nerve wracking for parents but this kind of independence is a normal developmental milestone for tweens. Start practicing having your child "Check in" if the plan changes while they are at a friend's house or if they are out and about in the neighborhood. Checking in helps you know and understand what they are doing and with whom.

Role Play 

Your tween will begin to experience more risky peer situations. Even if your child is a "rule follower" or has "good friends" or is "active in school, church, sports," he/she isgoing to experience risky peer situations. Your tween may be asked to break the rules or be with peers who ARE breaking the rules or engaging in risk taking behaviors. Give your tweens some good scripts on how to get out of these situations. Present different scenarios that may happen and give tools and an escape plan to get  out of the situation. Also, let your tweens know that they can still come to you after the fact and talk to you about what happened.

Safety to and from School

Your tween may want to start walking home from school and/or the bus stop. Evaluate your tween's readiness by making sure he/she can stick to a regular (and populated) B4S_crossingguard02_106402cpath. Will they come straight home or become distracted? What are the specific risks to your child, such as traffic, high crime area, busy street to cross? If you have decided that they can start walking to an from school on their own, make sure that you practice a preferred route and identify homes or businesses they can go to if they need assistance. Take a buddy whenever possible and remind them to NEVER approach or get into a car with anyone, even if they know the person, without checking in first with you.

Asking questions

question_markThis is the time for parents to  really step up their game and start asking more thoughtful and engaged questions about what is happening in their tween's life.  When your child is going to be spending time with other families, be sure to ask "what is the plan?" and "who will be watching the kids?"  Some tweens at this age are seasoned at staying home alone. Others are not.  The same goes for movies, games and internet access. Your comfort level with kids being home alone and family rules about internet access and games may not be the same as someone else's. If you have concerns, talk to the adult in charge about your concerns. Also be thoughful in asking your children open ended questions about their day, their interests, what their plan is, when they are going to a friend's house, etc.

As a parent of both a tween and a full fledged teenager, I can fully attest to the fact that the more we talked about safety expectations for back to school, the better things went. Tweens will test boundaries, rules will be broken, there will be many opportunities to discuss how things could be handled differently next time. Yet, by the end of the school year, in spite of some uncomfortable moments and deep pits in my stomach, we got through. We learned that the safety net we provided at the beginning of the school year was the most powerful investment we made in our back to school preparations.

About the Author 

Kim Estes is the owner of Savvy Parents Safe Kids and has worked with parents for over 15 years. Kim is a certified prevention educator through the National Security Alliance, the Kid Safe Network and a Darkness 2 Light facilitator. As a Child Safety Expert, Kim has appeared on local and national TV and radio shows, helping to raise awareness on the importance of prevention education. Find more information at She's also sharing safety tips daily on the Savvy Parents Safe Kids Facebook page during back to school season. Check it out!

Find the rest of the Back to School series here.

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