By Maureen Cavanagh
They say every parent has a recurring fear. Not just the running-out-of-wine type of fear, but one about a particular way their child can get hurt. For me, it’s getting hit by a car.
I’m constantly convinced every car might suddenly fly through the air Dukes of Hazzard style.
Many times while walking on sidewalks or crossing streets with my children I often feel like they are tiny prisoners in my death grip as I throw them about, switch sides with them and yank them back off curbs abruptly, risking shoulder dislocation.
Turns out, my insane fantasy fears are not so far fetched. Last year alone in New York City there were tk pedestrian deaths, of which police estimate were not the fault of the pedestrian and were attributed to driver error. Distracted drivers are increasing with every app, sattelite radio station and iPad mini.
So here are a few ways you can use common sense to teach your kids the very important lifelong lesson of walking down the street.
Head on a Swivel
I say this repeatedly as I cross the street with my children. I sound like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. “Right, left, right again, our head is on a swivel, our head is on a swivel”. Cars go the wrong way down streets or make turns without looking all the time and cyclist blow red lights. You can’t ever assume you will make it across the street safely because you have the right of way. Sometimes drivers are idiots. Or drunk. Drunk idiot drivers is the best assumption at all times.
Don’t look at your phone as you are walking with or without your kids. You are leaving yourself vulnerable to muggers, for one, but also you aren’t paying attention to where you are going and what’s happening around you. Remember always that your behavior is what kids will one day emulate. Point out people doing dumb things to your kids, “Look at that person, we would never play Candy Crush as we walk down Columbus Avenue”.
Think about Placement.
When walking down the street, make sure your kids are on the inside of you and you are closest to the cars. And always look for barriers to stand behind as you are waiting for a light to change. Trash cans, mailboxes, etc. Try and put levels of protection between you and the drunk idiot crazy Dukes of Hazzard drivers.
Keep Up an Ongoing Dialogue.
Things you say seep into your child’s brain. (Just ask my 4 year old who told her little brother to “eat his Goddamned eggs”). Constantly narrating helpful hints and plans gives them that inner-dialogue they need.. If you see a crazy person on the street, discretely tell your kids the reason you are crossing the street to get away from them. It’s OK to say you don’t like certain situations and show your kids how to change what’s happening to stay safe. Additionally it’s always good to point out safe spots for them, shopkeepers you might know, the fire dept.