Staying Safe (And Sane)Teaching your kids and yourself about child safety
by Suzanne Cobb
Family Magazines have been bringing you a myriad of information on Megan’s Law and ways to protect your children from abduction or molestation by a sex offender. Unfortunately, while the Megan’s Law registry is a tremendous asset in keeping our kids safe, it cannot prevent every threat. What about the predator who has not been caught? Only convicted sex offenders are placed on the Megan’s Law registry. The fact is, a huge percentage of children are molested not by a stranger, but by someone they know, and often trust.
How then, can a parent raise a child without becoming completely paranoid about their safety? Or teach their children about safety without turning them into a neurotic mess as well?
Pattie Fitzgerald, child safety expert and president of Safely Ever After, is a local woman who is trying to help both parents and children to stay safe and, while doing so, stay sane. She offers workshops for both parents and kids, and urges her audiences to approach the difficult subject of child molestation calmly and rationally.
At a recent workshop in West LA, Fitzgerald talked to a group of young mothers. Many were nervous and unsure about how to protect their kids in a world that brings us stories of horrific abductions on the daily news. “Remember, the world really is a safe place, for the most part,” she reassured them. “Most of you won’t need to ever use what you learn here. But it is all about an ounce of prevention.”
Prevention comes in the form of a number of websites that offer valuable information; checklists to go over with children; and learning how to talk to your kids about subjects that may be scary or uncomfortable.
Fitzgerald also urged the women to teach by example. “Loud and obnoxious moms and loud obnoxious children are a pedophile’s worst enemy,” she explained. Since society teaches women to be polite and demure, many of us pass that on to our kids. Children need to learn that it is okay to say no, even to people they know and trust, and to yell from their gut if someone is making them uncomfortable or they feel unsafe. This is hard to teach if your children see you kowtowing to rude people, or not saying no when you feel like doing so.
A new program that Safely Ever After is offering is “Parents’ Safety Nights,” which can either be hosted by a school or other organization, or simply by a group of friends, like a Tupperware party. They also offer “Kids Power Parties”, a fun way for kids ages 5 through 8 to learn important safety skills in a relaxed, familiar setting. You can visit their website at www.safelyeverafter.com for more information.
Safely Ever After’s - Family Safety Rules.
Pattie recommends going over these with your kids in a fun way, possibly turning into a quiz or game.
- I am special… and I have the right to be SAFE!
- I know my NAME, ADDRESS, and PHONE NUMBER and my parent’s names too!
- I never go anywhere with someone I don’t know.
- My bathing suit areas are private!
- I always check first with my parents or the grown-ups in charge, before I go anywhere or get into a car, even if it’s with someone I know!
- I don’t always have to be polite!
- I can yell “NO” and tell a safe grown-up when something just doesn’t feel right.
- I don’t keep secrets if they make me feel bad!
- I know what to do if I’m lost in a store!
- I always listen to my own inner voice, especially that “icky” feeling.
For more information, or to book your own workshop, call 310-203-1330.