Safely Ever After: Educating Children About Child Predators
Use Kid-Friendly Language
When it comes to child predators and stranger safety, many parents are in the dark about what to say to their children. Some parents approach it too seriously, while others use scare tactics and other unwise methods. Pattie Fitzgerald, founder and creator of Safely Ever After, Inc, has some expert advice on how to broach the topic in a way your children will understand, without making them overly fearful of strangers.
"The problem," she says, "is that too many parents aren't talking about the actual realities of predators."
Fitzgerald explains that many parents focus on "stranger danger," when in actuality most victims of child predators are targeted by people they already know. Her goal was to find a healthy way for parents to discuss child predators with their kids -- in a clear but non-threatening way.
Kids are more likely to listen and comprehend if parents use kid-friendly language and make appropriate comparisons. Parents should begin talking to their children early about "tricky people," as Fitzgerald calls them on her website, www.safelyeverafter.com. Children as young as three or four years old will understand some of the basic characteristics of untrustworthy people. Important issues like child predators can be approached in the same manner as the "look both ways before you cross the street" rule - by incorporating the subject into the natural dialogue and daily conversation between parent and child.
Young children do not need to be taught all the rules right away. Simple basics like teaching a child that their "bathing suit areas" are private, and "safe adults wouldn't ask a child for help" are some good topics to start out with.
The point of educating children about child predators is to make them more aware of their surroundings, not to make them afraid. The "doom and gloom" method can have a negative impact, since the goal is to inform children and teach them how to look out for themselves if they feel threatened, not to make them afraid of the world. One effective technique Fitzgerald talks about using with kids is the thumbs up/thumbs down method. When talking about safe people, give them a thumbs up. This includes people and situations that are safe, fun, and do not harm a child in any way. A thumbs down includes any person or situation that is harmful or breaks the rules.
"Parents tend to go overboard when talking to their children about a topic like this, because it is a topic that scares them, and rightfully so," explains Fitzgerald. She points out that news and media coverage have sensationalized these situations, making the problem with child predators seem more widespread than it used to be. Although people talk about it more, child predators are no more prevalent today then they were 15 or 20 years ago. It is important to inform children, but being overprotective and approaching this topic too seriously will not help a child in the long run.
Pattie Fitzgerald is the founder and creator of Safely Ever After, Inc. and has been teaching child safety awareness since 2001. Parents, teachers, and school administrators specifically request her Safely Ever After programs because they present important and accurate information in a calm and humorous way. Being a mom herself, Fitzgerald knows this take is important, especially when dealing with kids and when talking about a topic that can scare them. For more information on Pattie Fitzgerald's Safely Ever After Program, visit her website at www.safelyeverafter.com.