After moving to a new neighborhood, there are multiple factors that could increase your children's risk of experiencing a dangerous situation. They may be more likely to travel alone because they have yet to make a group of friends, or they could also get lost in an unfamiliar area. According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, there were 462,567 missing children cases in 2013. While the numbers are alarming, there are ways to keep your children safe in their new surroundings.
Explore the area together
By taking the time to walk around certain spots together, you and your children will be able to get more familiar with the area and better understand which spots should be off-limits. The National Crime Prevention Council recommended using that time to set boundaries on where they can go around your town. Discuss your concerns with them crossing busy intersections and hanging out in questionable areas. Seeing the neighborhood firsthand and explaining why your worries will make your children more likely to respond more positively to restrictions.
Giving your older children a cellphone can help reduce your worry when they're walking home from the bus stop or traveling to a neighbor's house alone. Give them numbers to a "safe home," like a trusted neighbor's house, that they can go to in the event that there's an emergency and you're not around. When you know they're walking alone, have them check in with you via a quick phone call or text to make sure that they've made it home. While there's always a safety risk when allowing your children to travel by themselves, sometimes it's unavoidable. Once they reach a certain age, they should be able to take on more responsibility.
"Typically, when children are around 12 or 13 years old, they have the wherewithal to be aware of the risks and also have the wherewithal to reach out if they do need help,'' Rosemary Webb, co-president of Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention, told ABC News.
Teach your kids about stranger safety so they're equipped with the knowledge they need to identify a suspicious person. Parents magazine recommended instructing your children to never give out personal information, like their address or phone number, to unfamiliar adults. Talk to them about never getting in a car with a stranger and make sure that they know to report any strange incidents the moment they happen.
Your children should also know basic home safety tips like locking doors and shutting windows to reduce the risk of an intrusion. Give them the code to your home's alarm and explain why they should never give out the pin number to anyone. Teaching safety considerations will help protect your child from a dangerous situation.
Get them involved in activities
Not only will afterschool activities keep them in a safe place while you're not at home, but they can also help your children make friends after an address change. When they're able to build up a social network of friends, they're less likely to be alone and more able to avoid a dangerous situation as a result. Encourage them to check with their school to see which sports and clubs are available for them to join. It may be the push they need to explore their interests and get involved in healthy social and physical activities. Parents magazine also recommended introducing them to your neighbors and their children for the same reasons. Connecting them with their peers could help them build friendships and make them feel more comfortable in their new neighborhood.