The responsibility to keep your child safe can feel overwhelming, especially with so many unsafe people and influences in our environment.
• Talk to your child openly and often about possible dangers in the environment.
• Children are taught “Stranger Danger” in school yet statistics show children are much more likely to be harmed by someone they know.
Warn your child that it’s possible for someone we love to choose to do wrong and hurtful things.
• Teach your child how to create safe physical boundaries. Start talking early about the difference be-tween touches that feel good, bad, or confusing. Let your child know that they have the right to say, “No,” to any unwanted touch, especially if they are told to keep it a secret. Parents, don’t force your child to hug others, even relatives. This is confusing and gives the message, “I don’t have a right to decide who touches me.” Instead, say, “Would you like to give Ms. Smith a hug or shake her hand?”
• Give your child words, phrases, and gestures to use should they feel someone is being inappropriate, manipulative, or unsafe. Let your child know it is always OK if she wants to say “no.” Give her options to use to contact you and/or to reach out to an authority figure for help.
• Let your child know that he can tell you anything, that you want to be there to listen, and that your love for him will never change.
• Practice “what if ” scenarios during outings and give your child suggestions on how to remain safe if something unexpected happens. For example, “If you were lost right now, look around and tell me who you would approach to get help?” or “If you were spending the night with your friend Sarah, and her father began tickling you and you didn’t like it, what would you do?”
• Sleepovers – YIKES! This can be a very difficult event to navigate. Even if you know the parents well, there may be other children and adults invited to their home that you do not know. Be aware, sleepovers are often the place where a child is either molested or exposed to activity or material you would not want your child to know about.
• Supervise your children. You may be thinking, Duh! Supervise in a mindful way understanding that there are predators wanting access to your child.
• Supervision includes all devices that can access the internet, receive texts, emails, download apps, or create social media accounts. Be sure to set a policy for randomly checking devices, having no secret passwords, and discuss proper use of self images. Explain when it is ok to download an app that may be accessing the location and other information about your family. Educate yourself on the ways social media is being used by pedophiles to access children. Many apps are actually dangerous.
• Know the adults who have access to your children. The more involved you are in your child’s life, the less likely it is that your child will seek attention from other, potentially dangerous adults.