When they are tiny we baby-proof the house and stay close by our child’s side for every little bounce, bump and bang. But as hard as we try we can’t wrap our kids in cotton wool and keep them safe all of the time. What we can do is teach them skills for keeping themselves safe, and make sure that that baby-proofing extends to making sure our home is as safe as possible – not only from bumps and bangs but from burglars and break-ins too.
Being burgled is horrible, and yes, I am most definitely speaking from personal experience. We were robbed before our girls were born and couldn’t have been more surprised given that we lived up on the first floor of a secure apartment building. We lost precious family heirlooms and cash that I had been secretly saving for Dad 101’s birthday, and we lost that feeling of being safe in our own home. I cannot even imagine how much harder it would have been if our children had been born. Being robbed is absolutely devastating, and it happens much more frequently than you may think.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to help keep our homes and families safe. I recently asked a number of friends and family members to share the advice they were given for keeping their homes safe following their own horrid experiences of being burgled to compile this list of 35 ways to help keep your family & home safe.
Helping kids stay safe at home
There are a lot of practical things we can teach our children from a young age about being safe at home. It is, however, most important not only to tell but also show your children what each of these actions looks like, and then practice over and over again until your child can do it alone. Regularly role-playing scenarios for each of the following tips is the most effective way of ensuring that they will act safely should the unexpected actually happen.
1. Teach your children not to open the front door. The only exceptions in our house are a parent or grandparent, no one else. I love my friend Kate’s suggestion: “We’ve taught our kids to smile and wave (in their case, they can be seen) and then come and get us.” Explain to your child that anyone who is a friend will not mind waiting.
2. Teach your child their home address and telephone number and parents’ full names.
3. Teach your child when and how to dial and request help from emergency services (dial 000 in Australia). Talk through a range of situations where you should (and shouldn’t) call for help.
4. Create ‘Favourites’ for your spouse/partner and one or two immediate family members (or trusted friends) in your mobile phone and teach your child how to find and call them. I regularly have Immy use my phone to call her Dad or Grandma from my Favourites list so that if she ever needs to she can call them by herself.
5. For older children, create a simple text code (for example, 111) that they can use to contact you if they are scared or in danger.
6. Develop a memorable family code word that is only to be given to family members or trusted friends for your kids in your absence. Teach your children that they are never to leave with anyone who can’t say the secret code. The word should remain a secret and changed if others learn of it.
7. Teach children to listen to that little voice that tells them something is not right, and to trust it. Tell them that sometimes adults may make them feel uncomfortable and that it is always okay for them to move away or leave immediately, and to tell a trusted adult what happened. It is important that your children know that you will always help and support them, and that you will never be upset at them trying to protect themselves.
Making your home safe from intruders
8. Make your home look occupied at all times. Leave lights and the TV on when you go out. Leave a pair of shoes by the front door.
9. Get a dog. One friend, Caroline, shared an experience where a gang of thieves burglarizing their neighbourhood were caught. She shared, “They had made a map of the suburb and annotated all the houses with symbols such as “HFND” or BDA or WF. Which equalled “High fence, no dog”, “Big dog, avoid” and “Works full-time” and so on. Every house that had a dog had not been touched. The police agreed that having a dog, no matter the breed was the prime deterrent.”
10. Keep trees and bushes around your home trimmed so that they do not provide hiding spaces for intruders.
11. Get to know your neighbours. Good neighbours will be on the lookout for unusual activity and are great for putting out bins and emptying the letterbox when you’re away.
12. Check that all doors and windows are locked before you leave the house or go to bed.
13. Even when you are at home, keep external doors locked.
14. Avoid keeping spare keys in obvious hiding places outside your home. Leave them with a neighbour if possible.
15. Ensure that driveways, pathways, and entry points to you home have adequate lighting.
16. Install motion sensor lights on the exterior of your home.
17. Use a range of lights on timers indoors and stagger when they turn on and off so your home looks genuinely occupied. This is not only great for times when you’re travelling but also for nights when you are caught working late or are out in the evenings.
Doors & Windows
18. Place a wooden or metal bar in the bottom track of all sliding doors and windows to help prevent the door or window being forced open.
19. Ensure external doors are solid core doors.
20. Fit external doors with deadlocks.
21. Take your keys with you each time you leave the house.
22. Install a peephole if your front porch cannot be easily seen from inside the house.
23. Fit security screens to external doors.
24. Ensure glass insets in external doors or in windows that surround a front entry are reinforced with security window film to prevent trespassers from breaking the glass and opening the door.
25. Fit key lockable windows.
26. Reinforce windows with security film, roller shutters or security screens.
27. Install an alarm system.
28. Install a motion-sensor video camera security system that sends email footage to you rather than just recording onto a hard drive.
29. Put your newspaper delivery on hold.
30. Ask a friend or neighbour to collect your mail while you are away.
31. Invite neighbours with additional cars to park in your driveway.
32. Do not reveal your travel plans online.
33. Turn off Location Services on your mobile phone so that social media shares do not inadvertently identify your location.
34. Keep a backup of your family photos (and other important stuff) on a separate, external hard drive in case your computer is stolen or damaged.
35. Take photos of all your valuables and note all serial numbers on electronic equipment (and engrave if possible). This can help identify possessions that had been stolen and recovered.
What tips do you have for teaching your children to stay safe at home?