As a parent, you know that it’s tempting to think that all individuals who pose a threat to our children’s safety must be strangers. It’s easy to teach our children about “stranger danger” and think we’ve done enough. Sadly, while “strangers” are still dangerous, the concept can be difficult for children to grasp—what if the stranger is friendly and looking for help? Are casual acquaintances strangers, or can they be trusted? We are much better off when we teach our children what actions are bad, not who could be bad.
Another sad fact is that our hypothetical predator is likely someone that you know. Predators are more likely to be a friend, family member, coach, or teacher than a dangerous stranger. While not all abuse can be prevented, there are a few easy steps that you can take to protect your family from predators—both those you know and those you don’t know— in your own home.
Establish a Safe Environment
Your home should be a safe haven that protects your family from both internal and external threats. Teach your children that the doors should be locked, and carefully train them on proper use of your home’s security system. Alternatively, those who use ADT in Carmel, Indiana can benefit from automated arming and smart home integration. Protect them from cyber threats with software that lets you determine who your children interact with online, such as CYBERsitter or Cyberpatrol. In this day and age, abductions that occur outside of the home start online.
Safe environments aren’t all about bells, whistles, and alarms, of course. Establish a clear routine for things like going to and from school or extracurricular activities. This way, any deviations will be immediately apparent. It’s also important that your child feels comfortable telling you anything. Be a supportive listener, especially in the case of small irritations or accidents. Little is more upsetting to a child than feeling like they’ve upset their parents, so overreacting to problematic situations can cause them to clam up about incidents that might require adult intervention.
When to Say “No”
No matter where your child is, she should know that no one should be in her personal space without her parents or caregivers present. If you are present and notice that someone gets too close or feels too comfortable telling inappropriate jokes in the presence of your child, be sure that your child knows that she or he should not be alone with this person. Trust your gut reactions.
Give your child the power to say “no” when she or he feels something is wrong, too. Have an open dialogue about good touch, bad touch geared towards their age level. You don’t have to go into too many details—just let them know that their private parts are off-limits, and that it’s okay to tell you if someone does anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. This can be a stressful conversation for adults, but it opens a dialogue that is too important to ignore.
Leaving the Nest
When it comes to leaving your home, make it clear that your children shouldn’t leave without you or another designated adult. If this is to occur, it is wise to have your children know the names of multiple caretakers, their addresses, and important telephone numbers. They should also be aware of alternate safe places where they can go in case of any emergency.
Remember that inspiring confidence is much more effective than instilling fear, and teaching your children to confidently say “no” and remove themselves from dangerous situations is the best that you can do to empower them to protect themselves. An attack may be unlikely, but it’s not impossible − and establishing a safe environment with confident kids will benefit your family in the long run.
Naomi Broderick is a stay-at-home mother of three young boys. She is also a writer of parenting and emergency preparedness with Protect Your Home. Connect with Naomi on Twitter at NaomiBroderick3.