Teaching your children to call for help can be tricky. Since it is so important, we have some tips to help you, whether you are a parent, grandparent, or caregiver.
You want to teach them not only how to call for help but also when it’s appropriate to do so. Police and firefighters are called to homes almost daily when a curious child dials 911 just to see what is going to happen. By teaching your children now, you can help keep everyone safe and emergency personnel where they are needed…on the job.
When Are They Old Enough to Learn?
The first step is to determine if your child is old enough to learn the basics and to understand the rules. Around age 3 or 4, they’re generally ready to handle the responsibility and understand the task.
What Is an Emergency?
The second step is to educate your child about what constitutes an emergency. Begin by sharing examples of an emergency and a non-emergency. Ask your child to talk about what might be an emergency and an appropriate time to call for help and when it might not be a good idea to call for help. The general rule of thumb is that they should call 911 whenever there is an emergency or if they feel frightened or threatened by someone and there is no one to help them.
This is an important lesson and not to be skipped. Don’t expect your child to fully grasp the concept right away. You may want to cover this topic several times in the first week or so and then again once a month, just to make sure they remember the guidelines.
Using the Phone
The next step is to actually show your child how to use the phone. This is particularly important if you have a cell phone. Your child will need to learn how to turn the phone on and/or enter your password or to override your phone. Remind your child that it’s important to call for help when they need it, but to not use the phone when they don’t need it. Explain that when in doubt, call for help. They won’t get in trouble if they make a mistake.
Prep Them for Potential Questions
The last bit of information can simply help your child navigate an emergency phone call. Teach them about the types of questions they may be asked and how to provide good information. Common questions include:
- Where do you live?
- Who needs help?
- Where are you right now?
If your child can read, it can be helpful to create an emergency contact sheet and a sheet with the answers to common emergency operator questions. Show your child how to use the information and ask them to memorize important details like your address.