Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Talk to Strangers!

Child Safety

Much of what parents are taught about safety is wrong, according to Gavin de Becker, safety expert and author of the best-selling book Protecting the Gift. Find out how to keep your kids safe, so you can worry less! Here are some great articles, follow the link for more. 

Teach Your Kids How to Talk to Strangers

by Gavin de Becker, Family Safety Expert

Keep Your Children SafeIt's your worst nightmare. You're in a crowded mall -- shopping for back-to-school clothes -- and you think you've lost your daughter. Teach your kids what to do when they get lost with these suggestions from Gavin de Becker's bestselling book, Protecting the Gift.

Give your kids the ability to talk to the right strangers if they're ever in a situation where they're lost, alone, or in danger. If your child becomes lost, the first thing he or she should do is to approach a woman and ask for help. Women are more likely than men to become emotionally invested in your child and are statistically almost never sexual predators. Plus, women are almost always around and easy to find.

Encourage your young children to practice talking to strangers in a safe environment. Ask them how they feel about each situation, and practice what they might say. Look for situations where you can easily observe your child from nearby. Then, talk about what happened during your child's interaction with the stranger she chose to talk to.

Start with easier situations for your child and then make them more challenging (she may need to do each more than once for practice):

  1. Have her approach a stranger to ask for the time.
  2. Have her approach a stranger to ask directions (i.e., to the nearest ice cream place).
  3. Have her enter a store with you nearby to buy gum or candy.
  4. Have her enter a store by herself to buy some gum or candy.
  5. Think of your own relevant situations.
After each situation, ask your child:
  1. Why she chose who she chose.
  2. How the exchange went.
  3. If she felt comfortable with the person she spoke with.
  4. If that person was comfortable with her approach.
  5. What, if anything, she could have done differently.
What If Your Child Gets Lost?

Here are some practical steps parents can take to reduce anxiety in the event a child is lost:

  • Dress small children in brightly colored, distinctive, easily describable outfits. Parents who remember what their children are wearing have less anxiety when they become separated.

  • Carry current photos of your kids. This is especially important on vacations, when families are in unfamiliar areas where being separated is even more likely. Bring along recent photos of your kids in case you get separated.

  • Have a plan. Agreeing beforehand that "If anybody gets lost, we'll meet at the food court" helps make reunions happen sooner.

    It's inevitable that at some time every parent will lose sight of a child in public. In the overwhelming majority of these instances -- and there are tens of thousands every day -- it's the result of inattention or wandering on the part of either the parent or child, depending upon whom you ask. Soon enough they are back together, with one of them saying to the other (you guess which one): "I've told you a hundred times not to wander off."

    Until a child is old enough to recognize predatory strategies, old enough and confident enough to resist them, assertive enough to seek help, and powerful enough to enforce the word "No" -- until all that happens, a child is too young to be his own protector.

    Teach your child to distinguish between safe touch and unsafe touch: Safe touch (hugging, consoling, even mussing his hair) feels good. Unsafe touch (hitting, kicking, pinching, molesting) feels bad, uncomfortable, scary, or "funny" (weird).

    Encourage your child to trust his instincts about which is which. Let your preschooler know that if he ever feels unsure he should come and ask you or another trusted adult.

    Teaching Your Child to Protect Himself

    Unfortunately, your child may need to deal with dangers closer to home than strangers. The sad truth is that most forms ofphysical and sexual abuse are not inflicted by strangers, but by someone whom the abused child knows fairly well: parents, other relatives, friends of the family, neighbors. So you will need to teach your child to protect himself from the abuse of people he knows as well as from strangers.

    The key to combatingchild abuse is to empower your child by giving him the right to say no. He needs to understand clearly that:

    • His body is his own body and he has the right to keep it private.
    • He has the right to refuse any kind of touch from another person.
    • He has the right to say no to anyone who wants to keep something a "secret."

    If he knows the names of all parts of the body, then you can clearly tell your child that no adult (or older child) other than a parent, doctor, or nurse has permission to touch his penis or bottom. (Of course, younger preschoolers may also need a caregiver or preschool teacher to help wipe them after using the toilet. Make sure that your child understands this exception to the rule.) You can also make it clear that no adult (or older child) has the right to force or ask your child to touch his penis or her vagina.

    Emphasize your child's ownership over his own body. His body belongs to nobody else, not even to you. This means that he has the right to say no to any adult who wants to touch him in any way. Even if an uncomfortable touch seems accidental or the person who touches is a relative or someone whom your child trusts, he still has the right to say, "Don't touch me like that."

    If you want your child to recognize, appreciate, and exercise his rights over his own body, you will have to respect those rights, too. Don't force physical signs of affection on your child. If you want a hug or a kiss, ask for one. But if he shies away or says no, as some preschoolers begin to do, respect that and back off a little. This same rule should of course be applied to all of your friends and relatives. When your sister comes to visit, you should never command your child, "Give your aunt a kiss." Rather, ask your child, "Do you want to give your aunt a kiss?" If he says no, don't apologize or make excuses. That's his right.

    Finally, teach your child the difference between "good secrets" and "bad secrets." An adult who physically or sexually abuses a child will almost always insist that the child keep it a secret—and often threatens harm if he reveals it. So you'll need to give your child guidelines that let him know when to keep secrets—and when to tell them.

    A good secret, one that's okay to keep, is usually exciting and fun (a birthday present, or a surprise party). A good secret almost always involves hiding knowledge from one or two special people for a short period of time (hardly ever longer than a month). But a bad secret probably won't make your child feel excited or happy. Instead, it feels like trouble—and no one is ever supposed to find out about it. This is the type of secret that your child should reveal to a responsible adult as soon as possible.

    Your child needs to know that he can and should tell you or another trusted adult if anyone asks him to do something that makes him feel funny or uncomfortable or scared—or if anyone touches his genitalia. Encourage him to ask you about any adult behavior that confuses him or makes him uncomfortable. Most of all, your child needs to know that you'll listen to him if he does. So never punish him for revealing information to you. If you show that you are open to any and all questions and that you will listen if he tells you that something bad happened, then you'll go a long way toward protecting your preschooler from any potential abuse.


    The Real Gal said...

    Thank you so much for sharing this important information. Blessings!!

    Sarah Elise Stauffer said...

    Gavin de B. is amazing!!