Keeping Your Child Safe

By Lydia Long PhD. | November 1, 2012

Howcan we help keep our children safe?  Iassume that you have taught your child all the standard stranger rules.  But, have you discussed who is and isn’t astranger?  Parents and guardians ofchildren should know that most children who are sexually abused are notmolested by a stranger, but by a trusted person. For decades, children weretaught to stay away from “strangers.” But this concept is difficultfor children to grasp and often the perpetrator is someone the child knows. Itis more beneficial to help build children’s confidence and teach them torespond to a potentially dangerous situation, rather than teaching them to lookout for a particular type of person. Whenyour children go play at someone else’s house, have you met the responsibleadults who will be present?  What aboutinternet safety?  Who are your childrentalking to online?  Think of the peopleyou and your child trust. {{more}} Those are thepeople that have the most unsupervised access to your child, and can manipulateyour child easier than a stranger.  Children abducted by stranger’s makes thenews, children assaulted by family members are so common place only extremecases get media attention. Children needto be empowered with positive messages and safety skills that will not onlybuild their self-esteem and self-confidence but also help keep them safer.Children need to learn how to recognize and avoid potentially dangeroussituations. If they become involved in a dangerous situation, children need tolearn effective steps they can take to remove themselves from the situation.Children do not need to be told the world is a scary place. They see it througha variety of media, hear it from adults, or may even personally experienceviolence. Children need to know their parents, guardians, or other trustedadults — people whom the parents/guardians have come to rely on and with whomthey and their children feel comfortable — are there for them if they are introuble. Children also need to know the majority of adults in their lives aregood people. When we tellchildren to “never talk to strangers,” we have effectively eliminated a keysource of help for them. If they are lost they may be surrounded by manyrescuers who could help them. If children perceive these people as “strangers,”they may not speak or reach out to them. There have been cases in which achild’s rescue was delayed because the lost child was afraid to call out to the”strangers” when rescuers were nearby. Parents and guardians cannot be withtheir children every second of the day. We need to give our children “safetynets,” the plans and people you’ve put in place to contact so your childrenknow there is always someone available to help them. These individuals mayinclude uniformed law-enforcement or security officers and store/businesspersonnel wearing nametags. The safetymessages need to be tailored to specific circumstances, such as being lostoutside. Parents and guardians should teach children to Stay put and not wander away from where they first became lost. Staying where they are increases children’s chances of being found unless that place becomes too dangerous because of severe weather or another potentially threatening situation. In that case children need to go to the nearest safe spot and wait for rescuers. Make noise either by yelling, blowing a whistle, or attracting attention in some other way. This may help bring someone to their rescue. Parents andguardians should make child safety part of a child’s everyday life in areassuring way by practicing these skills. Whether it is checking first with atrusted adult, taking a friend, or avoiding and getting out of potentiallydangerous situations, there are easy “what-if” scenarios you may practice withyour children to make sure they understand and “get it.” Make outings to a mallor the park a “teachable moment” to make sure your children understand thesafety messages and are able to use them in real-life situations. Children willbegin to learn what to do if they become lost or are in danger by practicingthese “what-if” scenarios with you on a regular basis. You can also use theseopportunities to reassure your children you are there for them, and remind themthere are other people who also are able to help them. Lydia Long, PhD. teaches Criminal Justice for McMurry University and has published on avariety of criminal justice and sex offender issues.