Russell Holeman: Keeping kids safe requires having a good plan

08/13/2014 12:00 AM

08/11/2014 4:33 PM

The world is a very different place from when I was growing up, with much higher expectations for parental involvement and supervision.

I know many parents (myself included) who struggle to draw the lines with their kids about what is safe behavior. We all want our kids to grow up safe and healthy, but we also don’t want them to miss out on the adventures that make childhood memorable. As a police officer and the head of the Turlock Associated Police Officers (TAPO), I have helped many parents over the years develop a family plan to keep everyone safe and sound. As part of TAPO’s outreach efforts to build a safer community, I’d like to share some of those ideas.

The biggest challenge is helping kids retain basic rules about interacting with strangers without making them afraid of their own shadows. It’s important that these conversations happen regularly and casually, in a variety of situations. It’s easy to frighten a young child with an emotionally charged lecture about “stranger danger.” Instead, try asking kids what they would do in specific situations as you go about your day.

When traveling, ask what they would do if you got separated. At the park, ask what they would do if a strange adult approached them and asked for help. Develop a family safety plan in advance to ensure that your messages are consistent. Choose a family password to use if someone other than a parent is picking up your child.

Not all danger comes from strangers. Every year, 1,000 children die from drowning in the United States and there are 26,000 bicycle-related traumatic brain injuries to children and adolescents.

I recommend parents enroll their children in swim classes offered by the city of Turlock. Parents should also exercise extra caution around natural bodies of water or other swimming areas that do not have a lifeguard. Turlock has several pools with lifeguards available, and police officers will be handing out swim passes to children throughout the community for the rest of the summer.

Bike safety is also critical. There’s no excuse for not wearing a helmet – ever. Officers will be using swim passes to encourage safe behavior, so kids should be sure to wear their helmets if they want a free trip to the pool.

Children riding bikes should also be sure to ride single-file when in a group and always cross roads at intersections.

It’s a good idea to ride with your kids occasionally to make sure they are maintaining safe bike habits.

The bottom line is that you must talk with your kids about being safe.

And talk with your local Turlock police officers whenever you see us out in the community. We’re here to help. Any officer can offer advice on specific safety issues or help you develop a comprehensive family safety plan. Also check out our website,, or follow us on Facebook at for more tips on how to stay safe.

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