It is a fact of life that the safety of our our kids is of utmost concern more than ever!
Let’s face it, no matter what we wish, it is impossible to protect our children 24/7 forever but teaching them THE TOOLS to stay safe at various stages in life, are the real life-long gifts we could offer them. This article only offers a few tips and a lot of “food for thought” for parents, as well as a few suggestions of websites which contains helpful information.
Common situations we know about, yet they work in favor of predators!
Not long ago, I watched a T.V. program in which the interviewer first approached the parent(s) sitting on a bench, watching their child play on a public playground. The interviewer asked the parent(s) if they spoke to their child about “stranger danger,” and the universal “trick” they use to solicit the child’s help to find an imaginary lost pet. Th parent(s) told the t.v. interviewer that the children were told to never speak to a stranger, specifically to avoid strangers who have a puppy or solicit a child’s help to find a lost puppy. With the parents’ consent, the t.v. interviewer approached the children. He showed him/her the picture of a cute “lost puppy,” and asked for help. Without exception all the children agreed to help the stranger find the lost pet. The parents were stunned!!!
What is so fascinating about the “lost puppy,” that the children forget their parents’ lessons?
Here are a few thoughts…
Most people, not only kids, love puppies and kittens, generally helpless animals. They are irresistible and not only predators but good marketers know it. I click on “like” on many Facebook posts featuring animals in need! I am an adult but still, even being aware of how little I know about the place posting the cute animal, I do click on it.It’s called an emotional response… I guess.
The other aspect of this ageless successful “formula” is that regardless of the belief that people don’t like to help, most people do! Most people like to be helpful! Especially kids, whose personalities haven’t been “polluted” by the selfish aspect of our culture.
So… if most of us have a soft spot for cute animals and a desire to help, why do we expect a 5-year old to remember and apply an abstract lesson? Could a child even imagine the bad consequences?
Questions to ask ourselves, as parents, might be: ” How old is our child? What is the child’s personality? Level of understanding an abstract concept? Each person is unique and needs to be treated as such.
My mother, for instance had the right idea, to demonstrate real consequences.
She thought that a bad “real bad” experience could teach me the lesson to never leave home alone.
At the age of five, because no adult wanted to take me out to the park to play, I left my parents’ apartment, managed to cross a busy street on green, and went to the playground alone. When the adults realized I was gone, they searched for me at the park, and luckily I was there, playing with the “supervised” kids. Later, my mother told me that she approached a young man and offered him money to “pretend” to be a bad stranger and “pretend kidnap me,” while she watching. Well, the plan was good, as a real scary situation would have taught me a lesson… The problem was that the young man refused and told my mother he didn’t want to scare a child!
What is the moral of this story?
Keep your children supervised at all times until you are sure they have the level of maturity to understand danger and abstract concepts! Each child matures differently.
The second problem with the “stranger danger,” is that most predators are People our children and we, the parents, know! Yep… this is one of those concepts none of us thinks it could happen to us or our kids, until it does! Just like suicide is unthinkable, yet according to the CDC statistics, 38,364 people completed suicide in the USA in 2010 and the numbers are on the rise (Suicide: Statistics, Warning Signs and Prevention) Did their family members know this tragedy was going to happen so close to them?
An old friend who owned a day care business told me many years ago: I would never leave a child who could not speak yet in the care of anyone but if a parent has no choice, it is better to have your infant cared in an environment where there are several qualified care-takers. The many unfortunate horrifying videos I watched in which parents captured their babies’ abuse by “trusted” nannies, convinced me of my friend’s wisdom.
Perhaps, rather than teaching our children to trust unconditionally a family friend or relative, teach them the
NO SECRETS rule. Anyone who asks a child to keep secrets is to be questioned.
Another old “trick” that continues to be effective is “your parent(s) were in an accident and asked me (either a stranger or someone the child knows) to pick you up and take you to the hospital! Why does this work? A child loves his/her parents and is afraid of being an orphan. This trick appeals to the fear in all of us!
What to teach your child? These tips are effective only after you have determined your individual child’s capacity to understand and apply concepts:
1.Have a family CODE. A word only you and your children know. Any person who was truly sent by a parent will know the code word.
2. If anyone asks for HELP, teach your child to say: “I have to check with my parents first.”
3. If they are lost in a public place teach them the FREEZE Game! Stop. Don’t run around looking for you. Some suggest the child yells, or asks for help from a Mall guard or sales person. This is a personal decision, but the FREEZE rule does help.
4 Teach your children your phone number, address, full name.
5. Teach them how to call 911 and when.
6. Teach them as a rule, adults do not need a child’s help Never get in cars or help an adult carry something to his/her car or look for a lost pet or give directions.
7. Teach them to lock the door and never open it unless you told them to expect a certain person. Do not tell anyone when they are home alone.
8. Teach your child, later, as an adult to use the buddy system and when going somewhere alone to tell a trusted friend of family member where he/she is going and with whom.
9. In the area of social media, taking pictures of our kids and displaying clothing with their names is viewed as normal, and it is. However, when sharing images of our beloved, re-set your privacy settings.
10. Have your child attend a safety program as well as a self-defense and awareness class.
Where to find more useful information regarding the safety of your neighborhood and how to keep your family safe
1. Sign up for ALERTS for your from your sheriff’s office.
2. Use parents’ forums, but always take info with a grain of salt. http://www.Momlogic.com, http://www.life360.com,www.childrescuenetwork.org, http://www.kidslivesafe.com,
3. Your STATE has Megan’s Law lists of sexual predators in your area. For instance: http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov (.pa, .Del,.NC etc)
In conclusion, the real danger is being unprepared and not having a plan of action!
Empower your children by being a good role model and replacing fear with education and awareness!”
This is a topic of on going interest for all of us! Please share your tips and stories, so everyone could learn!