The following article is an Op-Ed written by Sgt. Russell Holeman, president of the Turlock Associated Police Officers and 15-year veteran of the Turlock Police Department.
The world is a very different place than when I was growing up, with much higher expectations for parental involvement and supervision.
I know many parents (myself included) who struggle to draw the line with their kids about what is safe behavior. We all want our kids to grow up safe and healthy, but we also don’t want them to miss out on the adventures that make a childhood memorable. As a police officer and the head of the Turlock Associated Police Officers (TAPO) organization, I have helped many parents over the years develop a family plan to keep everyone safe and sound, and I’m here to share some of those ideas with you as part of TAPO’s outreach efforts to build a safer community.
The biggest challenge is helping kids retain basic rules about interacting with strangers without making them afraid of their own shadows. I think it’s important that these conversations happen regularly and casually, in a variety of situations. It’s easy to frighten a young child with an emotionally charged lecture about stranger danger. Instead, try asking kids what they would do in a specific situation as you go about your day. When traveling, ask about what they would do if you got separated. At the park, ask them what they would do if a strange adult approached them and asked for help. Develop a family safety plan in advance to ensure that your messages are consistent. A family password to use if someone other than a parent is picking up your child can also be a great tool.
Not all danger comes from strangers, however. Every year 1,000 children die from drowning in the United States and there are 26,000 bicycle-related traumatic brain injuries to children and adolescents. I recommend that parents enroll their children in swim classes offered by the City of Turlock. Parents should also exercise extra caution around natural bodies of water or other swim areas that do not have a lifeguard. Turlock has several pools with lifeguards available to the public, and police officers will be handing out swim passes to children throughout the community for the rest of the summer.
Bike safety is also key. There’s no excuse for not wearing a helmet – not ever. Officers will be using swim passes to encourage safe behavior, so kids should be sure to wear their helmets if they want a free trip to the pool. Children riding bikes should also be sure to ride single-file when in a group and always cross at intersections. Parents, it’s a good idea to ride with your kids occasionally to make sure they are maintaining safe bike habits.
The bottom line is – talk with your kids about safety. And talk with your local Turlock Police officers whenever you see us out in the community. We’re here to help. Any officer can offer advice on specific safety issues or help you develop a comprehensive family safety plan. Also check out our website turlockpolice.org/ or follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/turlockassociatedpolice for more tips on how to stay safe.