A checklist for parents to prepare kids before they go anywhere without adult protection

Safety is not a one-time lesson but an ongoing conversation and process. To be safe on their own in public or at home, young people need:

  • knowledge so they can recognize potentially unsafe situations
  • skills for taking action to avoid or get away from those safety problems, and
  • enough life experience and development so that they can use their knowledge and skills consistently.

To be safe in public, young people need skills to:

  • Stay aware so that they notice and recognize potentially unsafe behavior sooner rather than later.
  • Put away mobile phones and devices, keeping them in a pocket or backpack unless they are using them to get help.
  • Move out of reach of someone they don’t know well if they are in a place where there aren’t many people around or if anyone’s behavior is making them uncomfortable.
  • Check and think first before taking a ride or going anywhere with anyone – even people they know – unless that was the plan.
  • Get help everywhere they go, even by interrupting busy, impatient adults.
  • Yell, run, make a scene, and fight if necessary to escape from an attack.

We created the following checklist handout for parents, guardians, and educators about how to prepare their kids to be ready to make safe choices and get help while on their way to and from school, or anywhere else in public before they are allowed to go on their own.

TALK together to make a Safety Plan so young people know…

  • They are safest staying in groups and, if they are younger, with you or another adult in charge.
  • To always get permission from you or another adult in charge before they change their plan about going anywhere with anyone, whether it is a stranger or someone they know.
  • To always get permission from the adult in charge about WHERE they go, WHO will be with them, and WHAT they will be doing.
  • That a stranger is someone they do not know well, can look like anybody, and might know their name.
  • They do not need to be afraid of strangers – they just need to know and follow their safety rules!
  • To follow the safety rules – even if someone is acting nice.
  • To CHECK FIRST with their adult in charge BEFORE they stay close to a stranger, talk to a stranger, take anything from a stranger (even their own things), or go with a stranger.
  • If they are old enough to be out on their own, to THINK FIRST and move away if someone tries to get close to them and to NOT give personal information.
  • To move away toward safety and get help if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or tries to approach them.
  • How to get help in an emergency from people you’ve designated along their route.
  • To tell an adult they trust right away every time someone makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.

GO together to determine…

  • The safest route to follow on the way to and from school or other activities on foot, by bus or other public transit, or by bike that will avoid isolated places, difficult streets to cross, and other hazards.
  • Where to go and who to ask for help if kids have a safety problem on route — preferably adults you have introduced them to — in a business, community center, neighborhood, on public transit, etc.
  • What to do if kids get lost, if they cannot stay on their route, or if someone bothers them.
  • Each young person’s safety readiness for going on their own without adult supervision.

PRACTICE together until you are SURE your kids are prepared to…

  • Use their awareness to notice and avoid safety problems from people, traffic, or other possible trouble. If they have a phone, this means keeping it put away.
  • Act aware, calm, respectful, and confident in every situation.
  • Move quickly out of reach from a stranger or anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Follow their safety plan even if a friend tries to persuade them to do otherwise.
  • Find a place with people to help them if they get lost or have to change their route.
  • Yell “NO! I NEED HELP!” and run to a safe place to get help if they feel scared.
  • Yell, pull away, hit and kick to escape from an attack.
  • Be persistent in getting help, even if adults are busy or impatient.
  • Find and use a telephone so they can call a trusted adult for help or 911 in an emergency

Additional safety resources for families:

Kidpower Stranger Safety and Self Defense Skills
Preparing Children for More Independence – A Five-Step Plan From Kidpower
How to Pick a Good Self-Defense Program
Helicopters or Protectors: How to Keep Kids Safe Without Unhelpful Hovering

Resisting the Illusion of Safety
How “Stranger Danger” Hurts Kids: Teach Stranger Safety Instead
What If I Get Lost? – Kidpower Skills for Teaching Children How to Get Help

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Published: March 9, 2012   |   Last Updated: February 13, 2024

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.