My parents used to drive my younger sister and I everywhere or would make sure that we had a ride home from school, a friend’s house, or from a party.
Only when I was about 11 years old, my mother reluctantly agreed to let me and my sister walk about 10 minutes from home to our piano lessons by ourselves just once because she had an urgent business matter to attend to.
We were so nervous and excited at this new-found freedom but were abruptly brought back to reality when we were about to walk at a zebra crossing and were loudly honked at by an oncoming car.
Although we did manage to reach our music school in one piece, it was a sobering reminder that anything can happen in the blink of an eye and as kids, we should have been more alert and aware of our surroundings, whether or not we had the right of way when crossing the road.
If our mother ever found out about that close shave, she probably would have blamed herself for letting us travel alone and would constantly be sick with worry whenever we were out of her sight (more than she usually would!).
But not all parents have the time nor luxury of shuttling their children back and forth between school and home, so it’s not an uncommon sight to see Primary School students here taking the bus by themselves.
So if your kid travels home alone from school, how do you ensure that he stays safe?
Here are some important precautions you should go through carefully with your child who travels home alone from school:
1. Be a perfect pedestrian
Remember going to the Road Safety Park with your classmates for a school outing?
It was awesome to get to ride on the bicycles, but those who were stuck being pedestrians probably grumbled about how absolutely boring it was.
However, it’s actually a great way for kids to learn more about the proper way to cross a road and how to stay safe while navigating their way around on foot.
Just remind your child about the Singapore Road Safety Council’s basic rules such as:
- Don’t jaywalk! Always cross at proper pedestrian crossings
- Be alert and watch out for oncoming traffic
- Use footpaths whenever possible
- Avoid crossing in front of or in between stationary vehicles
- Wait until the “green man” lights up before crossing
2. No personalised name tags
Most parents will get personalised sticker labels of their kid’s name and stick it on their pencil case, water bottle, books and pretty much every single item they own!
But you might want to hold off on getting junior’s name embroided onto his jacket or schoolbag because if a complete stranger sees it and calls him by name, your child might be more willing to trust him and even follow him.
3. Old enough
Make sure that your child is at the right age and absolutely ready to be going home on his own.
Once he is around 10 – 12 years old (Primary 4 and up), this is usually when he will be ready to make his way home from school by himself.
But of course this also depends on each child’s level of maturity.
4. Secret password
Experts recommend you create a family password for your kids to use when faced with strangers or uncomfortable situations they need to get out of.
If a stranger approaches your child and claims that he’s picking him up from school on your behalf that day, but is unable to give the secret password, then your child will know he was definitely not sent by you!
5. Beware of “Tricky People”
Although you may think it’s good to teach your child to be wary of strangers, it is actually better to tell him to watch out for “tricky people“.
A “tricky person” is an unsafe adult who will try to trick your little one into doing something wrong or dangerous.
They can even be a relative or family friend, or a well-dressed stranger who only appears harmless based on their outer appearance.
6. Know when to run
Tell your child to always trust his gut instinct which is when he gets an uneasy feeling inside that sets off his warning bells about someone or something.
It is also known as that “uh oh feeling“, that will give him an urge to run away from whoever or whatever he feels may be putting him in danger.
7. Getting lost
Teach your child what to do in case he ever gets lost and can’t find his way home.
Should he call you on the phone? Go to the nearest bus stop and use the bus guide to figure out where he is? Ask a safe adult for help?
Whatever it is, remind him to always stay calm and be focused while he tries to figure out his next steps.
8. Stay connected
Make it a habit for your child to touch base with you once he reaches home safe and sound.
Either he can just send you a text message to let you know he’s alright, or he can also give you a quick phonecall so you can breathe easy.
9. Have a travel buddy
If your child has a schoolmate who lives at the same block or estate as you do, it’s a good idea for him to buddy up and have a travelling companion.
That way, they can watch out for one another and also keep each other company during the commute to school and back home.
You can also call the travel buddy or her parents in case of emergencies if you are unable to reach your child for some reason.
10. Practice together
As a trial run, let your child go home from school by himself as you follow him without stepping in to show him the way.
This will be good practice for him to get used to the route while still under the safety of your close supervision.
You may also want to try reenacting certain scenarios he might face (like getting stopped by a stranger, or taking the wrong bus, or getting lost) and what exactly he should do in such a situation.
Does your kid travel home alone from school? What are the important precautions you practice with your kids? Share it with us by leaving a comment below!