As parents, we try to prepare our children for any possible situation they may find themselves in, such as what to do if they get lost or see someone get hurt. For children to be prepared for emergency situations, they must first understand the concept of community helpers and know how to recognize those charged with serving and protecting their fellow citizens.
Children are taught to avoid strangers from the time they’re very young, and with good reason. However, in an emergency situation like a house fire, it is crucial for a child to recognize that a stranger in a uniform is there to help and bring them to safety, not to harm them. It’s also important that children understand those same helpers should be treated with respect and should offer the same in return.
While your child has been introduced to community helpers as part of this month’s Me and My Community curriculum theme, this is a conversation that should be continued and expanded upon at home. Here are a few ways you can expand upon this month’s curriculum!
Lead by Example!
Your little ones are going to follow your lead. Whenever you encounter a community helper, make sure to acknowledge them politely. Say hello to policemen when you pass them on the street or in the store. Wave and smile to firefighters or ambulance drivers when you are in the car. Remember to thank your mail carrier each time you see them – maybe even give them a small holiday card if it’s the same person every day! Tell your children to thank crossing guards or security guards when they see them! Rather than showing fear or hesitation for doctors and dentists, emphasize how much better they make us feel. These little acts add up in a BIG way.
Help Those Who Help us!
Police and firefighters help us, but who is helping them? Teach your children that sometimes even a hero can use a hand. Do good deeds like donating bottles of water or Gatorade to your local fire stations or sending thank you cards to the police station. Encourage your children to bring small gifts to their teachers for major holidays to remind them they are loved and appreciated. By seeing the appreciation they receive from real men and women who dedicate their lives to helping others, it will build that bond of respect that your child will need in the future. Small acts of kindness really do a long way when it comes to learning.
Take a Hands-on Approach!
Do a little learning through fun activities with your children! Take them to museums dedicated to first responders, maybe even while dressed up as their favorite community helper. Make a few phone calls and see if you can set up a little tour of a police station or firehouse. Take a trip to your local library to see the librarians in action and ask them to show your children where to find the best stories. Giving your children a firsthand look at what our community helpers do behind the scenes will help make them seem more approachable when children need them the most.
Starting your children on a healthy path toward good relationships with their community and neighbors will set them up for success for their futures. It may only take a small portion of your time, but you will thank yourself at the upstanding citizens you are raising!