November marks National Child Safety and Protection Month – a time that reminds us of something that we should bear in mind every day – how to protect our children.  From the time of their birth, we are vigilant about their safety.  We have months to prepare for their arrival.  Picking out the perfect baby carriers, beds, clothing, safest bottles, formula, baby monitors, are only the tip of the iceberg.  Thankfully, hospitals are extremely careful in protecting newborns, as in the past, some persons have tried to slip in and take them.  When we first take a newborn out in the public, our eyes are constantly focused on that baby. 

That vigilance should carry over through their toddler years, ‘tweens, and teens.  Somewhere along the way, though, we get so very busy that safety may get pushed into the back of our minds.  We hear of parents and caregivers that forget and leave their little ones in the car.  We hear of the nightmare of missing children, and the agony that friends and family experience. 

Parents have the greatest influence on their children, so it starts from the very beginning of their lives.  They should be taught healthy routines and healthy habits.  The National Crime Prevention Council reminds us that we must talk to our kids and be involved with them.  Parents are responsible for furnishing safe toys.  They must install devices in their homes to protect toddlers from the hazards of electrical outlets, medicines, stairs, and many other ways their children can be injured.  

In many families, both parents work, or there may be a one-parent home.  When child care is required, the parents should do a thorough investigation of the  applicant to be in charge of their little one every day.  You are leaving your child in their care and you want to be sure this person will be responsible.  It’s a smart idea to install “nanny cameras,” for your peace of mind.  If you opt to leave your child in a day-care facility, be sure it is licensed, and ask parents you know that leave their children there about their experiences.  Day care centers are an excellent source of teaching children how to get along with each other. 

Parents need to monitor their children’s school activities, and be familiar with the school’s emergency plans, what kinds of foods are offered, and the safety of playground equipment.  They need to also plan their rides to and from school: either by carpooling with persons they know well, riding the bus, or bicycles, and be sure they stay on safe routes if they walk or ride a bike to school.  As they grow older, kids need to be involved in extracurricular activities, such as sports, hobbies, organizations, and/or Boy or Girl Scouts.  There are neighborhoods with gang activities, and keeping kids busy with other fun things will divert any interest in gangs. 

Every day, there is news somewhere of a missing child.  We hear every detail, when a little body is found.  That little person was someone’s angel, and we need to think about what went wrong and how our system can be fixed to better prevent persons from abusing children.  People that hurt children, the elderly, or animals are cruel and should be put away so they can never hurt anyone again.   Every child deserves to be safe.  Do your part – if you suspect a child is being abused, report the people that are doing it.  (Sometimes it does take a village!)

Being a parent, step-parent, or foster parent is a huge responsibility.  When your kids are grown and have kids of their own, you will reflect on what you could have done better to protect them as they grew up.  When you are a grandparent, you think of how you can keep them safe when they are in your care.  There’s a big checklist of things to do to protect our children.  We may not get every check marked off, but in the big picture, if we have raised them to be responsible adults, we will have done an excellent job.  

 Be on the same frequency as your children.  Stay engaged with your kids; you can be their friend as well as their parent.  Long after they are grown, they will realize that their parents will always be their best friends.  If we do our job in loving and protecting our children, they, in turn, will do the same for theirs.