Oct 22 2009

No Need To Fear Safety

Published by at 4:03 PM under Child Safety

If knowledge is power, why then are so many parents reluctant to talk to their kids about personal safety?

I recently set off to find the answer to this burning question after participating on a Q&A safety panel with other experts, including Nancy Davis, resident blogger for Safety4Kids and author/New York prosecutor, Jill Starishevsky, at an event in Los Angeles.

The answers I found aren’t particularly surprising, but they did make me realize that most parents are still in the dark about the realities of childhood sexual abuse and subsequently, how they can protect their kids from a molester’s tricks.

Here are a few of the most recurrent comments parents shared with me (and my responses!):

1. We’ve already talked to our kids about stranger-danger, so we’ve covered this.

Hold on there!   The truth is 90 percent of childhood sexual abuse doesn’t happen by a “stranger”.   More often than not, it’s someone the kids know.   And,  even when it is a “stranger” who approaches a child, many kids can be easily fooled or tricked by a friendly introduction from someone who smiles and perhaps offers an enticing treat or seems to need their help.   Kids think strangers look like the “boogeyman”, complete with dark clothes and a scowling face.    Well, most strangers don’t approach kids that way.  Their “tricks” would never work!     Instead of telling kids not to talk to strangers, a more effective way to keep them safe is to tell them to watch out for “tricky people” – someone who may look nice but tries to get you to break a safety rule.

2. We don’t want to scare our kids, so we’d rather not bring up the issue at all.

I hear you on the first part of that, but not the second part! There are plenty of ways that parents can empower kids with safety skills and concepts using effective, child-friendly language, AND without ever resorting to scary stories or fear tactics.   Parents teach their kids about fire safety, pool safety, even safety about crossing the street all the time. You haven’t made the kids terrified of swimming pools or cars, you just gave them clear guidelines.   It’s the same with teaching kids about “good touch/bad touch” or “tricky people”.    By giving kids specific safety rules, they can recognize when someone is out of bounds.

3. It’s  too depressing, we just don’t want to “go there”.

Denial isn’t going to make the problem go away or keep our kids safe. The good news is that by focusing on positive ways to talk to kids, empowering rules, and child-friendly concepts that makes sense to them, we can protect children without ever hitting a doom and gloom note or wallowing in depressing statistics.

Hey, I’m a mom, too.   I want my daughter to grow up feeling safe and secure, not fearful of the world.

As a Child Safety Educator, it’s my job to help parents and caregivers teach their kids effective “safe-smarts rules” that work. It’s as easy as 1…2…3!



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