Ep. 16: How to Talk to Your Kids About Safety

We know its scarily common for children to be abused, even/especially at the hands of someone you feel is trustworthy.  I honestly can’t imagine anything more difficult than finding a babysitter for your kid who you can know for sure you trust. 

One of the most important things my parents did for my siblings and me was to teach us how to trust ourselves, other adults, and that no matter what, we could (and should) come to them if we ever felt uncomfortable with ANYone. Regardless of who it was. And that we didn’t have to spend time around anyone who made us feel uncomfortable. 

Let’s talk about some depressing statistics, shall we? 

According to Victims of Crime. Org:

-1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse

-Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;

-Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;

-Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

-According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well (page 5)

Something that I want to mention that is semi related: a popular misconception is that the majority of child predators were once victims themselves. It’s something that I totally beleived until I started researching this episdoe, but it turns out this is only true for about 30% of offenders. 

This myth is harmful for survivors of sexual abuse and often prevents them from speaking out for fear that they will become offenders or develop a desire to assault children. Or at least that people will think that of them. That is absolutely not the case, and it is vital that we create an environment for children to speak up, and be heard and believed so that they can safely work through their trauma and live happy and healthy lives. 

So let’s dive in, how to talk to your kids about safety. 

  1. Set really basic ground rules

This is going to be different for every family and of course for different ages, but make sure your kids know what is and isn’t safe:

-one hand stays on the cart while at the grocery store

-never answer the door when you’re home alone

-keep your instagram/snapchat what the heck ever kids are on completely private and don’t add anyone you don’t know.  

Whatever feels right for you and your kids. This seems basic, but don’t take it for granted that your kid knows the right thing to do in each situation. Try to think of things they do regularly, and when they may need to make choices on their own. What if oyu’re late picking your kid up from practice, should they get a ride home with someone? Put rules in place, and talk about them often. 

  1. Teach bodily autonomy. 

Start teaching bodily autonomy very early on: As they get older, kids may or may not want to hug, kiss, high-five, snuggle whatever you, friends, family members. It’s not rude, its totally fine. Do you force adults to give you a hug and a kiss when you leave a place? that’d be weird AF so why would you do that to a kid? Teach them now and early that they have say over what happens with their bodies. Who gets to hug and kiss or snuggle or be in their bubble.  No one should ever feel like they have to just deal with being uncomfortable to make other people happy including/especially children. It’s better for your kids to be comfortable than happy. 

  1. Ditch the Stranger Danger method

There is so much more to talk about than just ‘strangers are bad avoid strangers.’ If your kid gets separated from you, or is in some type of emergency like a car wreck, this can make them absolutely terrified. Instead teach them what to do in the event they get separated from you, and how there are some strangers who are safe and some who may not be. Safe strangers are like police officers, store employees, firemen, nurses/doctors, etc.. You can totally talk about this all the time, too. Not just one time. While you’re out and about, point out that store employees wear name tags, and all wear red shirts (or whatever) and that they help mommy and daddy while they’re shopping, and they can help you too if you need anything! See if oyu can take them by police station and fire station to meet real firemen and see real firetrucks. Make sure they know policemen don’t just come for bad guys, they help people stay safe all the time too.  Make it normal so they are set up for success should they ever need to ask for help or be taken care of by strangers even if momentarily. I’ve also read that you can tell your kids to look for adults who have other kids. Other moms and dads are usually safe and will be totally happy to help you. 

On the other hand, talk about the bad strangers, too. Scary strangers or bad strangers are adults who make you feel bad or uncomfortable, or unsafe. Talk to your kids about how and adult should never ask you to go away from your parents, like when you’re out at the store or six flags or wherever. An adult shouldn’t ask a kid for help with anything– kids don’t know. And an adult should NEVER tell a kid to keep a secret from your parents. 

  1. Random Tips

If for some reason YOU feel uncomfortable about your child being around someone, put a stop to it immediately. It doesn’t matter who it is or who’s feelings get hurt or who gets inconvenienced. You have gut instincts for a reason, and they should ALWAYS be trusted. Don’t let anyone guilt you into letting someone you don’t trust watch your kid. Liiikeee don’t let your partner talk you into the daycare that’s cheaper if you didn’t feel great about it. 

Don’t use scare tactics. Avoid statements like “oh that little boy got kidnapped because he was being bad and didn’t stay close by his mom’ or “if you don’t come right now someone is going to take you!” or “you’re being bad–i’m going to call the police so they come and take you to jail’ It doesn’t scare your kid into behaving, it makes them feel like its their fault if something awful does happen to them– and that is something that will stick with them forever. You want to be sure if something does happen, they always know that you won’t blame them. 

Teach your little ones your actual names and help them to memorize your phone number. You’d be surprised how early they can learn this. It will be invaluable if they ever get separated from you.  

Raise your kids to be little hellions. To kidnappers, anyways. I remember when I was young, my dad told me that kidnappers will intimidate kids into going with them by saying that they’ll hurt you if you don’t go with them. I think like a kid had gotten taken from like a mall or something recently and so we were talking about it– anyway’s he taught me that NOOOO ONE is going to hurt a kid in a public place and to call their bluff. To kick, scream yell bloody murder, and to shout my parents actual names. Aint no kid napper wants a scene. 

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