We tell our children from the time they are able to understand our impassioned words to be smart and safe when out in the world. And, often, we wonder if our tips and strategies are enough, or even heard; yet, we continue to talk openly about safety while continuing to learn various beneficial strategies. You may discover one of your brilliant suggestions truly saved the day!
The Value of Trust
Under the banner of “safety,” the parents of loquacious children have, perhaps, a more challenging job. Some children are openly friendly and will not only talk to strangers, but divulge key information such as the home address, Mommy’s telephone number, the names of siblings, and how many dogs are contained in a fenced backyard.
Tip: Try acting out a scenario with your child’s dolls. Impress on them whom they can go to if they are ever separated from their caregiver. In addition, as you shop with your child, take the opportunity to play a game of “I-Spy—the employees.” Help them recognize a store’s employees by a uniform or badge, for instance, and who would be a go-to person, such as a cashier, receptionist, security officer, or a mom who is with children.
Tip: While we tell our children never to talk to strangers or receive a gift without asking an adult first, children can break the rules of safety if they are scared or feel unsafe. This may be defined as finding a safe place to go or to seek a person who can help. And, if they are grabbed, to scream unrelentingly as loud as possible!
Tip: Labeling vehicles and items like backpacks with your child’s name will give predators the ability to lure your child away quickly. Begin the new school year without personalized accessories.
The home needs to be viewed as a fortress of protection. It has keys, sometimes codes, passwords and security systems, and other numerous secrets. All children must understand that the secrets of the home are not to be carelessly revealed to anyone, especially a best friend. The spare key placed underneath a rock near the back porch is one such secret.
Tip: Remind children, especially teenagers, the value of not revealing that they are home alone. This includes not answering doors to strangers or posting the notice on social media. While open conversation is beneficial, talk to your children about an action plan. Knowing in advance what to do in case of a home or neighborhood situation will help your child remain calm and in control.
Tip: Differentiate for children an “okay” and a “not okay” secret, and why even good friends should not be told key information. Establish a family rule of no secrecy. Children must feel that it is okay to come to parents if a “not okay” secret came with a warning or consequences.
Tip: For everyone in your family carrying a phone, create a separate list of key contacts. Time may be a factor in situations where your child will need to quickly find a name and call.
Social media sites are, essentially, a live journal. There is temptation to reveal the deepest thoughts and feelings to a screen, hit “enter,” and walk away. Once sent, the words cannot be taken back or deleted. Encouragement, even a feeling of empowerment, is often felt when the writer receives “likes” or “positive comments.” The question is, who else is watching? Parents can help children feel safe and protected by teaching the rules of social media.
Tip: One important rule is, never to reveal when the home is occupied or empty. If leaving for a weekend or long trip, never reveal this information or pictures until the family is home.
Tip: While the home network must be protected, children should be made aware never to click on alluring sites or talk with strangers.
Tip: Encourage your children never to save passwords on the computer, and always to “log out.”
Children who befriend the family, which includes parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, on social media will not only also receive an important source of protection themselves, but will, in turn, be less likely to act in a dangerous or secretive manner.
Listening helps you stay connected to your children while keeping them safe. Ask them open-ended questions to learn how they would respond to situations, while providing guidance. When children feel they can ask or tell a parent anything, they are more inclined to openly reflect and develop good judgment in precarious situations.
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