How To Follow A Safety Plan In Public Without Embarrassment

Author of 4 books, podcaster, parent trainer, wife and mother.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Following a safety plan in your home is fairly cut and dry. You establish the plan, you follow the plan, and often the plan is discussed openly amongst you and your children. But that changes when you're in public. How do you continue to follow your plan and not embarrass your children?

This may seem like a moot subject during this current landscape of life. At some point, however, we’re going to return to normal and begin interacting with others outside of our home. When that time comes, you will have to hold up the safety plan you created to keep your children, and other children safe. But how do we do that and not face embarrassment?

A safety plan is a written protocol for preventing unsafe behaviors before they start. Sometimes the behaviors we are trying to prevent carry a stigma. Sexually maladaptive behaviors, severe aggression, violence, stealing, and hoarding are not socially acceptable even though they are common for children who have experienced trauma. Those who do not understand the effects of trauma may judge someone exhibiting these behaviors as a “bad kid.” We want our children to be safe everywhere they go, but we also want to protect their privacy. This is the balance we must find when using the safety plan in public.

  1. Decide who needs to know. Not everyone needs to know your child’s story. Even the people who need to know parts of the story may not need to know all of it. Your child’s teacher will need to know about the plan if it involves keeping eyes on the child at all times. The resource teacher and school counselor will need to know as well so they can support with an aide to watch the child. However, the janitor or lunchroom staff will not need to know the plan or why it is in place. If you are going to a playdate with a trusted friend, inform the friend of the safety plan and ask if they feel comfortable enforcing it. If the friend isn’t someone you can trust with your child’s information, it is best not to play at their house, or you can accompany the child on the outing.
  2. Talk with your child beforehand. Our children may feel shame over their need for a safety plan. Reassure them that they should not feel ashamed. A safety plan is just like wearing a seat belt. We will probably not end up in a situation where we will need the seat belt; however, we always buckle it just in case. We will probably not find ourselves in a situation where we will have behaviors that are unsafe, but we always follow our safety plan just in case.
  3. Create a special plan for public places. Have a separate plan that you use for birthday parties, playdates, playing at the park, going to the store, or at school. Your plan should use the same familiar language but with situation specific details. For instance, at home the child may be able to play in his or her room alone. In public that same child may need to be in eyesight of a trusted adult at all times. Go over the safety plan before you ever go in public. Talking about the plan ahead of time will remind the child that they are not in trouble. Having a plan ahead of time will help the child not feel embarrassed if you need to call something to their attention.
  4. Have a code word. Create a code word around the unsafe behavior. The child may not want others to know that his mom is keeping eyes on him, but if the child steps out of the line of sight, the mom or dad will need to call him back. Using a code word can help the child to remain aware of the expectation without embarrassment. The word can be anything you chose. A phrase, like “I’m thirsty, how about you?” or “minnow” or “Honey, did you feed the fish today?” will not alert the others in the group that the child needs something. These phrases just sound conversational, like nicknames or cute inside jokes. Other people will ignore them, but they will alert the child that they have gone outside of the boundary of the safety plan.
  5. Create an ongoing plan for school, church, and sports if needed. You probably do some activities regularly. You know the schedule and the people who will be involved at these places. Create a safety plan to use at the places you go to often.
  6. Praise your child for doing the right thing. “I’m really proud of the way you played at the playground today. You were kind to other kids, and you stayed where I could see you all the time. Great job.” Point out the good things. Safety plans keep us safe. Yes, they are a response to an unsafe past behavior, but when a child follows the plan, he or she should feel proud of the accomplishment.
  7. Have an exit plan. Always have a plan for how to leave public places, such as Thanksgiving dinner, the grocery store, the classroom, or a playdate. Plan how you will excuse yourself and your child if following the safety plan gets tough.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself as you consider a safety plan, and how to manage one in public…

  • Does your child have a safety plan?
  • What are some ways you have helped your child in public?

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.