Given the recent spate of messages on face book and what's app regarding a small boy being approached by some men in a car, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss some safety measures we can take to prevent any unfortunate incidents with our children.
This is a subject that is very difficult for us to talk to our children about and sometimes we do not wish to face the reality that our children can be faced with a dangerous situation from a stranger. Unfortunately there is enough statistics to show us how 'real' the danger of ‘strangers’ is. And however much we would like to push the thought away we need to first face the reality ourselves before empowering our little ones.
As our children begin to grow their wings and leave the safety of their
home to enter the 'real world', stranger danger is a subject that we need to educate them about.
We will look at 7 strategies to first get clarity on how you as a parent will approach the subject of stranger danger and then help your children outline clear steps on what to say and do incase they face such a danger.
1) Approach this delicate topic from a place of empowering your children.
For setting your intention to communicating with your children; just like you teach your children about seat belt safety, crossing the road safely, you need to approach this subject not from a place of instilling fear in them but to empower them. So that incase they face a situation like this they are equipped and know what to do.
2) Help them understand that strangers don’t always come in the form of dangerous looking people who might be potentially harmful and vice-versa that kind looking people are not always safe to be with. They can be in the form of extremely helpful neighbours or an uncle/aunty who is trying to be more than helpful. Talk to your children about who they can trust and who they need to keep at arms length.
3) Make a list of the trusted people. If your children are very small and they need to be picked up from school or classes, introduce your children to these trusted adults and make a rule so that only these people can pick them up and that your child knows whom to expect.
4) Talk to your children at an appropriate time regarding what is private space, their body and private parts.
For example when I was doing a family coaching session with parents and their three young children. The kids started to get fidgety and I used that opportunity to teach them about their private space and how important it is for children to respect each other’s private space. Then I went onto coach them regarding what to do when someone comes too close to them and makes them feel uncomfortable or they feel scared, that means their private space is being encroached.
So as a parent it is very important for you to pick an appropriate moment when you can talk about this subject like a mall or crowded place where people are too close together – then you can use that opportunity to start this topic with private space.
5) Teach your children what to do when someone is encroaching on their private space or touching them inappropriately.
Outline 3 steps/ things they need to say or do incase of real danger. Role-play how to say no. Example practice saying:
a) Please stop doing that.
b) I don’t like that.
c) I will call my mum or run to a security guard/teacher/person of authority.
Another point that is confusing for children is what we teach them around respecting an adult because we ingrain into their minds that children need to respect adults. However it is important to make this distinction in their minds and clarify to children when they are meant to respect an adult versus when an adult can be potentially harmful and encroach upon their private space and they need to say NO and seek help immediately.
6) Children forget these things. There are so many times you turn around and they are not wearing their seat belts. In the same way repeat and rehearse the steps kids need to follow once in 3 months or especially before you go on holidays or have visitors or where children are with people they are not familiar with. So that these instructions are fresh in their minds and they know what they are meant to say and do incase of potential harm.
7) Reassure your children that you love them no matter what and that they can come and talk to you and if anything happens to them you are always there for them. You love them and will always love them unconditionally no matter what. Many times when children are victims they tend to clam up in fear that they have somehow perpetuated the act. It is for this reason that parents need to keep a supportive and open communication channel so that children can share anything with them.
I hope this will help you to approach this topic with your kids more
confidently and with the purpose of empowering them!
Action immediately: Create a routine, 3 steps that your children can follow incase they are ever faced with stranger danger and role-play with them. And do let me know what you have put into place so that we can share what has worked within the community and all parents can work together to create a safer place for our children.
Youth & Family Life Coach
Athena Life Coaching