The world seems to be increasingly becoming a dangerous place; parents are increasingly worrying about their children and their safety. It’s a natural parental reaction to be protective, but realistically it is not possible to watch over your child all day, everyday. Pre-teen and teenage children need to see their friends and spend time away from their parents. All these independent activities are essential to the growth of identity. Your most important job is to keep your child as safe as you can without arousing tension and fear.
Today, kids need to be empowered with positive messages and safety skills that will build their self esteem and self confidence, while helping to keep them safe. Kids don’t need to be told the world is a scary place. Rather, they need to know their parents / guardian is there for them if they are in trouble; and most adults they encounter in their lives are basically good people.
Q. What parents should know when talking to their children about this issue?
When you speak to your children, do so in a calm, non-threatening manner. Children do not need to be frightened to get the point. Fear can be paralyzing to a child.
Speak openly and comfortably about safety issues. Children will be less likely to come to you if the issues is enshrouded in secrecy.
Do not confuse children with the concept of “strangers” when we tell children to “never talk to strangers” we have effectively eliminated a key source of help for them if they are in trouble. We need to give children ‘safety nets’ of people they can go to if they need help. Those individuals may include uniformed law-enforcement or security officers; a store salesperson with a name tag; the person in an information booth at a mall or other public venue; or a mother with children.
Practice what you talk about ; until children can incorporate safety measures into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice what if scenarios.
Teach your children it is more important to get out of a threatening situation it is to be polite. They also need to know it is okay to tell you what happened.
Don’t forget your older children. Children 11-17 years are equally at risk to victimization. At the time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand the important safety rules as well.