From the second semester onwards, my 10yo girl has to stay back for classes or volleyball training for 4 times a week. That means she goes out the house before 7 and is only back after 4pm daily by school bus. It is like an 8 hour job, isn’t it? We are thinking to let her take the public transport back on her own. But without a phone, I am worried about her safety on the road and also safety in general.
But… I can’t be holding on to her and deprive her of learning independence and “striking out on her own in the world”. If you know what I mean…
She is certainly old enough to take the public transport and we are only talking about 2 bus stops away. But the tricky part is that going to her school has a direct bus to take, but coming back is not that straightforward. She either has to walk across 2 big pedestrian crossing at a major traffic junction or she has to change buses for the shortest route back, or she has to walk across 2 long bridges.
Before I put her on the road on her own, I need to bring her with me on a few occasions to trial the routes. She protests, saying she knows all the routes. Still, I am not letting go until I do this trial with her and also prep her on the below safety measures which I am not leaving to chance. Call me a kiasu mum, or helicopter mum, but at least I prep her mentally and ensure she is armed with knowledge of what to do when she’s alone and faces problems.
1) Have spare coins to make phone calls
Since my girl has no mobile, I always ensure she has 10 cents coins to make emergency public phone calls as and when needed. And if she ran out of coins, she can go to nearby shops to ask for change or even approach strangers.
2) Approaching strangers
This is a tricky part.
When she is in school, she knows that she can approach the teachers for help.
When she is out of school, for instance going home alone or lost the group during school excursions, she knows that she can approach strangers for emergency phone calls and I teach her to approach aunties or uncles at bus stops. It is important that she uses her instincts well and backs off when she does not feel comfortable with the person she approaches.
There is always a part of me that fears for the kids meeting the wrong people on the road. But this is how one grows up and learns along the way to be street smart. I can only do so much to prep them for such scenarios, the rest has to be trusted to them to handle life’s situations.
3) Having spare cash in the school bag
She has spare cash with her, for instance, to take a cab home. She knows that if she does not have enough money to pay the cab fees, she can ask the cab driver for a mobile to call home for someone to pay the cab fees.
There are things that I taught my girl not to do and what is not right. This is for self protection in physical, mental and emotional.
4) Crossing the road
She cannot jaywalk on the road and even crossing at the turn of green man, she must always look right and left for cars that may not stop at red light.
5) Sexual harassment
She knows that she must not be touched inappropriately by strangers nor anyone else. I did go through explicitly with the kids which are the areas not to be touched. If she ever encounters an unfortunate experience, she has to scream out loud and shout “molest”, alert the authorities (for eg, the bus driver, librarian, teacher, principal, etc), and get someone to call the police. It may be hard for a young child to do all the above, but at least she must scream out “molest” and if possible, give that scumbag a tight slap! (I did tell her to slap or knee the crucial part in self defence. Mums have to teach daughters self defence, you know?)
6) Verbal abuse
She knows that verbal abuse or insults cannot be tolerated and she must not keep mum about it. Same goes for physical abuse and bullying. At the very least, I am always here for her to pour out problems.
For self esteem, she needs to love herself and if she ever faces ostracism by her friends or bullying, she has me to turn to and I will teach her how to handle the situation on her own like what I did when her supposed best friend toyed with her trust and friendship.
Being a mum, I have to think of all kinds of scenarios and teach her what to do when she faces such situations. This is perhaps the best way to teach her resilience, independence and how to keep herself safe in life.
Same goes for my 8yo boy. When it comes to safety preparation, there is not much difference between boys and girls, men and women, adult and child. Except that child requires more protection.
How do you keep your child safe?