When your kids were very little, either you were always there with them or they were in the care of a trusted adult. As your kids grow older they will venture further and further into the great big world on their own and establish their independence. It is a given you are going to worry, but teaching them about how to stay safe will help abate those fears.
Make your child your priority
The very best way to keep your child safe is to foster a close relationship with them. Spend time together, eat dinner together, have unstructured time together doing silly and mundane things. Abusers tend to pick out children who are isolated and alone. Being close at hand without hovering will help you evaluate their well-being while maintaining open communication.
Bring up the topic in a relaxed way
Declaring one evening that you are now having a family safety talk will likely be met with resistance. Instead, while you are doing something else (like dishes or finishing up homework), calmly initiate a conversation. Start by asking questions such as what you would do if someone you didn’t know asked you to get in their car or, “has anyone asked you keep a secret?” Treat it just like a conversation about something basic like pool safety.
Teach about tricky people
Predators are quite astute when it comes to manipulating children. The old adage of teaching stranger danger is outdated as your kids are more likely to be harmed by someone they know and trust - a friend’s dad, a coach, a family member. Instead teach them about tricky people. Tricky people are people who ask kids to keep secrets from their parents or ask kids for help when it something grown up should help them do instead (like looking for a lost dog). Teach your children simply that they shouldn’t go anywhere with anyone unless they ask your permission first, even close trusted people.
Use medical terms and teach them personal space
One way you can preemptively educate your kids about family safety is by always calling all body parts by their proper, medical name. You should be using the words penis and vagina when describing their private parts. Abusers are not likely to talk to your daughter about her vagina. If she suddenly starts calling it by a different name, that should be a flag to talk to her about where the term came from. Additionally, you should be teaching kids that any part of their body that is covered by their bathing suit is theirs and theirs alone. No one else should be touching them there and if that happens they should tell you immediately.
Make sure your kids know what to do if they get lost
Should you get separated from your kids, they should know exactly what to do. They should have their address and phone number (or your cell number) memorized and know your names. Tell them, if they do get lost, to go and find a police officer or another mom with kids to ask for help. Both are safe choices and will help them find their way back to you.
Foster and encourage your kids independence
As hard as it may be, encouraging your kids to be independent will help them out immensely when it comes to staying safe. Teach them that, under no circumstances do they have to be polite to an adult that makes them feel uncomfortable. It is perfectly ok to say no even to a grown up. They need to listen to the little quiet voice inside, particularly if it is giving them an “uh-oh” feeling. Teaching them to stand up for themselves, be assertive, and listen to their inside voice will carry them far.
Teaching family safety is crucial as your kids get older. Start with a simple low key conversation and teach techniques from a very young age. If done properly you will raise confident children whose instincts and strength will guide them as they venture into the world.