Teach, Listen, Believe, Respond – Learn to Trust Instincts
This world can be dangerous for children, big and small. The U.S. Department of Justice has estimated that there have been up to about 4,600 stranger abductions per year. Dangerous strangers are becoming increasingly bold, and bad things happen to careful people. But YOU CAN PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN – and teach them how to protect themselves. Here’s how:
Trust your instincts
Pay attention to any niggling feeling that says, “This doesn’t feel right.” Teach your child to do the same thing, even with friends, relatives and other authority figures! Back away quickly and firmly. Don’t be afraid to seem rude. If the offending person means well, he’ll understand. If he doesn’t, you might save your child’s life (and yours!).
Women and children often are taught to be polite before all else. Children are taught to listen to authority figures, to do what they’re told, to not disobey. But this attitude can be fatal. Dangerous people will use these lessons against women and children. If someone doesn’t accept your very first “no” or your very first “stop,” if he says or hints that you’re being rude, that you’re no fun, that you’re disobeying, that God will hate you for not doing something, that he loves you more than anyone else, that you are special, that he has a secret for you to keep — consider that these may be ploys to change your behavior to his advantage.
If you’re trying to make a decision about something, sometimes it can help to toss a coin. Make the decision a yes-or-no question, and pay attention to how you react to the side that comes up. If you feel a sinking sensation, take it as a sign that you need to reconsider.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Ask questions of teachers, principals, church officials, daycare providers, baby-sitters, your child’s friends, the friends’ parents, and of relatives. You have the right to determine what happens with your child. Ask if there’s a gun at the house and where it is. Ask about problems at the daycare. Don’t be afraid. This is information you need to have. And if your gut says the answer you got is a lie, incomplete or unacceptable, go with your gut.
Talk to your child
Listen to your child. Start early (age 2) to teach your child what he or she needs to know, and then – when your child has something to tell you – listen, believe and respond. Resist the temptation to talk your child out of what he or she is saying. Make sure your child knows — really knows — that you will always listen to him and take him seriously. And make sure he also absolutely believes that you’ll love him and accept him and want him back, no matter what happens to him — and no matter what he’s coerced or enticed into doing.
If your child is having bad dreams — or if you are — pay attention to them. When we sleep, our fears and intuitions often present themselves in the form of a dream or nightmare.
How Old Does a Child Need to Be in Order to Stay Alone?
Don’t assume that when your child understands what you’re saying, he’s ready to walk out the door by himself. Besides the fact that many states have laws against leaving children of certain ages alone (for example, younger than 12), experts say children shouldn’t be left by themselves until they’re capable of fighting off an abductor or handling a crisis situation. Experts also say children do not have the mental maturity to cross busy streets by themselves until they’re about 10 or 12 years old (did you know that pedestrian injuries rank third in child fatalities, behind traffic accidents and drownings?). Finally, parents who are certain their young children would never walk away with a stranger will be shocked to learn that studies show they probably will.
- Gavin de Becker – Take the Test of Twelve to see if your child is ready to walk to school or play in a park alone.
- National SAFE KIDS Campaign – says children under the age of 10 should cross the street only under the supervision of an adult and that children ages 5 to 9 are at greatest risk for pedestrian death and injury.
- Parent Resource Network Caregiver FAQ page for suggestions on how to decide if your older child is old enough to watch your younger children.
Other Topics to Discuss With Your Child As He/She Grows
Sexuality, Dating, Abstinence and Safe Sex; Guns and other Weapons; Media Issues (including Safe Surfing); Substance Abuse (including inhaling); Tobacco; Schoolyard Bullies and Managing Conflict; General Safety Issues; What Teens Can Do to Help Their Community.