Every year, over 50,000 children go missing. It’s a statistic that makes parents’ blood run cold but short of sequestering your child away until they’re an adult, abduction is a risk that every kid must run and a reality that every parent must face. Children are never too young for advice! By age three, they’re already thinking on their feet, making judgement calls and identifying the difference between right and wrong. Use the following tips to arm your child with the knowledge they need to be smart and safe.
Teach, Don’t Terrify
Scare tactics don’t work, period. Instead of instilling distrust and phobias, provide your child with the fundamental strategies required to make them cognizant of the hazards that exist, and arm them with the tools to avoid and evade them. If you teach your child to take control of their lives, they’ll understand that they’re ultimately responsible for their own safety and be empowered to make effective decisions.
Tactile interaction is the first form of communication that children understand and it remains important as they develop. There are numerous subtle nuances around touching – who it’s okay to touch and be touched by, where it’s okay to be touched, and when context creates exceptions (bath-times, doctor’s visits, etc.) By teaching body ownership, children become empowered to take agency of their own bodies and understand their fundamental right to create the terms of engagement. This means honouring their wishes by not forcing them into cuddles against their will or demanding that they kiss a relative goodbye if they don’t want to. Telling them that their body is theirs to own is only half the equation. Showing them is the other. When possible, honour their expressions of yes and no. Encouraging verbal communication from a young age will serve them well later in life.
Since the dawn of time, instincts have played a large role in the survival of humankind. Sadly, Society tends to suppress and discount intuition right when children are beginning to develop and realize it. Teach your child to listen to their inner voice and assure them that this is part of any healthy decision-making process. When a child is permitted to vocalize their feelings and follow their instincts, they’re empowered to avoid and report abuse before it happens.
Statistically, family members and close friends are a larger threat to a child’s wellbeing than strangers. That’s not to say that strangers are safe but instead of promoting a culture of fear around the unknown, arm your child with the information to spot potentially abusive behavior and rhetoric from anyone. When explaining the risks to your child, don’t identify them by times of day, locations or even particular personas. It’s the behavior, not the individual that they should be aware of. Make sure that you as a parent know exactly what to look for. People who wish to cause children harm come in all shapes and sizes and use various nefarious tactics. It’s the tools they use that you should keep your eyes open for (and share with your children): distress, bribery and even trust and friendship can be used to manipulate innocent kids.
Games & Scenarios
Roleplaying scenarios is often an effective way of imparting safety principles to child. By posing what if questions, you can gain keen insights into their thought process, which will help you gauge where the gaps exist in their education and understanding. Most importantly, this exercise helps your child think independently and arrive at their own solutions.
Follow these helpful guidelines. Your child will be safer for it.