With the disturbing number of girls gone missing from the Washington D.C. area, the countless stories of girls (and boys) facing inappropriate and dangerous situations, and a general interest and commitment in being a conscious parent/human being, every parent/care provider/person needs a checklist of what and how to teach children to be safe:
Teach them to trust their gut/intuition – their inner guidance that supports them to navigate life safely and with trust. If a situation or person (NO MATTER WHO THAT PERSON MAY BE – friends, family members, strangers, boyfriend/girlfriend) feels a bit off to them and that they may be in danger, encourage them to trust that feeling, trust themselves, and remove themselves from the environment - immediately - and tell someone – anyone who will support them in self-trust and being safe.
Create an open, honest, respectful, communicative relationship with your children so they know that it’s safe to speak with you about their emotions. When there is a foundation of safety within their home, they feel more free to stand up for themselves, in general, and if faced with a potentially harmful situation.
Refrain from telling your child to be a ‘good girl’ or a ‘good boy’, especially when you leave them in the company or supervision of others. It can be perceived that ‘good girls’ and ‘good boys’ do as they are told, and aim to please others, so they may comply to harmful situations or people out of fear of being a ‘bad girl’ or ‘bad boy’.
Support and nurture your children's belief system to reflect feeling positive about themselves. When they are armed with this view of themselves, it makes it easier for them to assert themselves with power, and remove themselves from or deflect potentially harmful situations.
Monitor Internet activities. If you’re paying for your child’s cell phone/internet services, you can respectfully monitor their activities. Prior to getting the phone, there needs to be a discussion(s) on the guidelines so everyone is clear. You can express that this is not an attempt to control, but to protect and support them being safe.
You can also consider enrolling them in a ‘how to take care of myself class’ (I prefer this title over 'self-defense class') or sports activities to support them to feel and be strong in their bodies, and confident in how they protect themselves.
Teach them about appropriate touching versus inappropriate touching. Share with them that appropriate or safe touching feels relaxing, comforting, and safe, while inappropriate or bad touching feels uncomfortable, scary, confusing, and can happen on any area of their bodies, including genitalia (and please refer to their body with the appropriate names – vagina, breasts, penis, etc). Helping them to understand the difference in touching will also support them in knowing more, and taking an authoritative stand about their bodies – how they view it and allow it to be treated. Express that if any touch feels bad (as described above), to immediately tell a parent or any adult(s). Let them know that them being safe, protected, and heard is the utmost priority and they will never get in trouble for telling.
Start to teach these from in-utero (yup, while you’re pregnant, start to speak with baby about how to engage with, and navigate the physical world). In truth, you can start at any point, 3 years old is a good place to begin.
Teach these from a place of love, and not fear. If you do it from the latter, you may convey that life is a fearful journey, and it’s not. We are the embodiment of and surrounded by love, at all times. Still, danger can present itself, and these are strong ways to approach it.
Parents, all of these steps can be even more effective if you mirror back your own ease with trust and safety. If these areas are challenging for you, perhaps due to past trauma, I highly recommend that you address them.
The more you are at peace with knowing how to be safe and trusting in yourself, the more you can teach these to your children. Do your absolute best, and, remember, it’s ok to ask for help with how to teach your children to be safe!
Over to you: What some of ways you teach your children to be safe in the world? I'd love to know, and other families would love to know too.
p.s. To be part of our wellness community, and learn how you can create an educated, empowered, and well-loved life, and health, sign up for our 'flourishing health' e-newsletters.