Keep your child safe in these wary situations by teaching them what to do when you aren't around.

Gun On Table With Toys and Candy
Credit: Marcus Nilsson

You do plenty to keep your child safe—putting plugs in electrical outlets, strapping on a helmet before biking. But the most important way to protect your kid is to teach him how to be cautious when you’re not around. Amy Frias, community educator at CHOC Children’s in Orange, California, and coordinator of Safe Kids Orange County, shares crucial safety advice.

How to treat a gun

About a third of all American adults are gun owners, and according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, 1.7 million kids live in households with unlocked, loaded guns. Even if your family doesn’t own one, your child could visit a friend whose family does. Talk through the differences between real weapons and the ones seen in video games or movies: It takes extensive training to use a real gun, and shooting one can hurt, or even kill, you or someone else. If your child finds a gun, explain that she should never touch it; doing so could cause it to go off accidentally. Instead, step away and tell an adult.

How to read a dog

Each year, 800,000 Americans—half of whom are kids—seek medical attention for dog bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that’s less likely to happen if your child understands how and when to approach a dog—including her own. Explain that she should never go up to a strange dog unless it’s with an adult who says that it's okay. If the animal is eating, wait until it has finished before approaching; it might assume that your child wants to take away the food, and it could become defensive, says Frias. The same rule applies if your child is eating or has a piece of food in her hand. And stay away from a sleeping pooch too. It could get startled and might snap or bite in response.

How to cross a street

Don’t let a young kid cross on his own. “Children can’t judge the distance and speed of oncoming vehicles until they’re about 10 years old,” says Frias. Before then, practice together. Cross only at a corner, and when possible, at a traffic light or a crosswalk. Never go if the light is red or reads “Don’t walk.” If the walk sign is flashing and you’re unsure how much time you have, wait for the next walk signal. When crossing, look left, right, then left again. Keep looking around as you go to the other side. Put away your phone and earphones. “Distracted walking is a major cause of pedestrian accidents,” says Frias.

Parents Magazine