When your grandchild was younger, staying safe was someone else’s responsibility. Parents, grandparents, caregivers, and other loved ones have looked out for your grandchild since the day they were born. They made sure your grandchild kept warm and healthy, was fed the right foods at the right ages, and watched each step they took.
Fast forward to today, and your grandchild is a teenager who is gaining independence. And with independence comes responsibility! The kind of responsibility I’m talking about isn’t about keeping up with schoolwork, keeping a room neat, saving money, and or even contributing to household chores. Don’t get me wrong, those are important tasks that I hope they are weaving into day-to-day activities.
The kind of responsibility I’m talking about is very focused on your teens’ judgement to keep themselves safer without relying exclusively on technology. Let your teen know:
- It’s not that your parent doesn’t care to keep you safe anymore. It’s the reality that the more independent you get, it becomes no longer possible to keep your eyes on you in the same way that your loved ones could when you were a much younger person. And truth be told before too long you will be moving out and living as an independent adult.
- This means that YOU need to be prepared to manage that responsibility 24/7. So, the time is now to start looking out for yourself to be sure that your activities and decisions are not working against you. You need to be sure that the choices you are making, and the ways that you pay attention, keep you free from harm.
At a very young, your grandchild was taught to know their home address. Even though they were taught not to tell strangers where they lived, it was an important piece of information to know should they ever get lost and need to tell a police officer or a trusted adult where they lived. It was planting the seed for your teen grandchild to be aware of their surroundings.
Have these important discussions with your teen grandchild:
- Can you navigate your life? Think about the places you typically go, whether it’s to school or to sports activities or to synagogue or church. Can you direct someone else who’s driving to get you to those places?
- Would you be aware if someone was taking you in a different direction than they were supposed to go? It’s an important question for you, isn’t it. You’ve been brought up in the digital age where everyone relies heavily on technology for information and where technology bridges us to connect with strangers for services like ridesharing. It’s important for you to know how to get places. From memory or from studying a map ahead of time. And don’t just rely on map apps to get you there because sometimes they don’t work. You’re better off using these apps to navigate traffic than to always rely on them for the knowledge that you, as an adult, need to start paying attention to.
Tips for safety to share with your teen grandchild:
- Start navigating your life by familiarizing yourself with the routes you take each week.
- Know your route before you go – whether it’s a car ride or a jog, walk, or bike ride.
- If walking, biking, or jogging, be sure to pick a path where others can always see you.
- Don’t rely 100% on technology for your information. Rely on yourself first wherever possible. Then use technology to gain further insight into a situation, like being aware of traffic patterns along a known route, or using your own map navigation app when using a ride-sharing service to verify your direction.
- When you are with a group, don’t let your guard down. While there is safety in numbers, being distracted is what those who wish you harm are looking for.
- If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, something is probably wrong. Change what you are doing and get to a more secure location.
Most importantly, tell your teen to trust their gut! Let them know that they don’t need to be concerned about offending someone. If your grandchild feels unsafe, it’s up to them to make whatever adjustments that are needed to make safety a number one priority.
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