Lessons your child needs to learn before taking public transport alone
What are some of the things you should let your child know before letting him ride the bus or train himself for the first time? We talk about some vital life skills to impart.
So you think you are ready to take the leap of faith and let your child take his first public transport commute? He checks off the list: crosses roads well, appropriate distances for his age between school and home, socially and mentally well-adjusted and mature enough.
But the first time you let your child take the public transport alone, no matter if he is seven or if he is fifteen, is going to be a time filled with fear and trepidation. Will he be safe? Will he get lost? Will he have kind people to help him, should he need it?
Understandably, the first public transport commute is a big step, both for him and for you. Before you send him off, these are a few things your child should know.
Assessment of stranger danger
If your child can take the public transport, he should also be mature enough to learn to assess the level of stranger danger. When our children are young, we frequently tell them never ever to talk to strangers. But what if your child is lost and needs help?
Most people are happy to help and harbour no ill intentions. Thus, it is important for you child to learn to intelligently assess the situation and make a judgment call.
Teach your child that it is okay for children to speak to strangers, but not to follow them anywhere. It is also not okay for them to exchange numbers or reveal personal details, nor is it appropriate to transmit data of any kind.
Learn to handle emergencies
What happens if the bus or train meets with an accident? What is someone gets violent? What if your daughter is groped or your son’s belongings are stolen?
Chances are, your kid will be like a deer caught in the headlamps if he is faced with any of these situations, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Brief him, without exaggerating the danger, about the extraordinary circumstances he might be faced with. Proceed to establish an appropriate standard operating procedure should any of these situations happen.
If these precautions have been taken, even if your child will still feel overwhelmed when such situations arise, he will react appropriately and his response will probably be quicker.
Short of making him take up a course in self-defense (which really isn’t a bad idea), these are essential life lessons that will stand him in good stead.
Point out emergency exits and built-in safety features
In Singapore, all modes of public transport come with great built in safety features. From the escalator’s stop button in stations to the hammer that can be used to break the window or the first aid kit located in the front of the bus, these are equipment that could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
As adults, we take these for granted, but a child will not know where to find these items. Further, even if they do notice them, they might not know how to use them effectively.
Run through with him the social mores of our public transport
While not as pertinent to his safety as the above, this is a good time to point out to him some of our social mores. This could save him embarrassment from being told off by a member of a public and also makes our public transport a more comfortable space for everyone.
Social mores like giving up his seat to the needy (or he might get stomped!), not sitting on the floor especially in front of the doors and ringing the bell in advance on the bus are some examples of the social graces that he should imbibe.
Create a group of travel buddies
It is a good idea for children who live near each other to travel in small groups. You can make arrangements with his friends’ parents and work out the routes and timings that works for everyone.
It is less likely for children who travel together to be preyed on. You will also have more peace of mind knowing that your child has at least a support unit of friends he can fall back on.
In the unforeseen circumstance that you are unable to contact your child and he is not home at the time he is supposed to be, you can also contact the other parents to check for news.
While Singapore is generally a safe place for our kids, one can never be too careful. For your peace of mind and his security, it is paramount that the above points are covered before he takes his first independent ride on the bus or train.
Mummies, share with us how you felt when your little one took the bus or train for the first time? What problems and solutions did your child face? Share with us in the comments below!