Are your kids equipped to make the right decisions when you aren’t with them? Do your kids know what to do in case of an emergency? Raising street-smart kids who can react to what’s going on around them will improve their chances of staying safe and making the right choices in life. When it comes to personal safety, kids who learn and think differently may be more vulnerable than other kids. So how can you teach your child about “safe” and “unsafe” people? Start with these tips.
Teach your child to be aware of their surroundings
Now, more than ever, kids are distracted from the world because they stare at a screen. Parents will teach their children to put down the phone when they drive, but many forget to teach their children to put down the phone when they walk. Walking with your head looking down and distracted by a screen makes your child an easy target for profiling, mugging, kidnapping, and other offenses.
Teach your child to walk with their head up. Walk with confidence and direction. When you walk with purpose and are aware of your surroundings, you minimize your appeal to be threatened. Plus, don’t just talk about walking with purpose and the phone put away, but also have your child physically practice it. Muscle memory is sometimes what people have to rely on when in a tense and unfamiliar situation. Creating all the lessons today into muscle memory by repeatedly acting out scenarios is, hands down, the most effective way to teach your child these lessons. They will remember them and use them in times of need.
Teach your child to move out of reach
You should consider putting your children into some sort of martial art or self-defense classes if possible. However, if you can’t enroll your child in that kind of extracurricular activity, at the very least, teach your child HOW to move out of reach of someone trying to grab them. Whether you roleplay an aggressive boyfriend/girlfriend, a stranger is trying to give your kids candy, or just play that good old “Try-and-slap-my-hands-on-top-of-your-hands” game, teach your child HOW to move away from people with intention.
Teach them how to step back also. Have them use more than just their upper body to shy away. Teach your child how to step away and run too.
Staying out of reach
Just like lesson 2, kids need to practice staying out of reach. Teach your child how to keep moving with intentionality and confidence. Roleplay being a kidnapper.
Or, for older children, roleplay a pushy boyfriend/girlfriend that won’t take no for an answer. Either way, practice CONTINUOUSLY moving away.
Teach your child to say NO, and STOP
Have your child practice holding their ground. Have them practice saying no and moving away. Teach your child how to remove someone’s hand from their body and step away.
Lesson 4 is more than just learning how to say NO and STOP, but it also includes teaching your child the body language they need to accompany those words. No one will listen to your child if they only learn how to say no weakly. Kids need to practice standing tall, standing confident, saying no with conviction, and make eye contact with their perpetrators.
Teach your child how to set boundaries for their physical and mental wellbeing
Teach your child that boundaries are important. We can’t be happy when we spread ourselves too thin, are trying to please everybody, and are worried about what others will think of us. With younger kids, practice saying, “Please stop” to peers and adults.
Practice holding boundaries when someone is insisting and won’t take no for an answer. Teach your child how to turn down invitations politely and with assertion. For older kids, practice saying, “Stop or I’ll leave.” From an early age, praise your child for setting boundaries on their physical space and with their mental wellbeing.
Teach your child to always announce where they are AND get permission before they change their plan about going anywhere with anyone
Yes, it is a little weird to announce if you are leaving the room to go to the bathroom. Making this a habit ensures that someone is always aware of your child’s whereabouts and it ensures that there is a trail that you can follow in case something goes awry and you have to look for your child.
Teach your child to always have a Plan B
For young children, this is going to be a discussion with you, the parent. What will you do if you get lost? What will you do if you’re waiting for me? What will you do if you don’t make the team? Teaching your child to have a Plan B is reassuring to the child and creates security. It shows them that things won’t always work out the way we wanted, but that’s okay because they have a plan B.
For teenagers, Plan B is even more important. Teach your child to have a Plan B every time they go to a party. Every time they feel peer pressure, and always create a safe way “out” when they find they are in a bad situation.
Teach your child to fight, scream, kick, and go crazy if someone is threatening them
This is a big one. Most kids get suppressed by adults who are up to no good because the adult says that they will “Tell on them” or “Hurt their family.” Kids will suppress other kids because they make threats like, “If you don’t do what I want, then next time is going to be worse.” It doesn’t really matter what kind of threat your child may receive; they need to know that the right course of action is to make a commotion and tell a trusted adult. Do NOT hide and give the perpetrator more power.
It is scary for any child to be threatened, but the threats are worse when your child doesn’t know what to do and feels helpless to help themselves. Teach your child to take back their power by making a commotion.
Talk about uncomfortable feelings
You can keep it low-key, but it’s still important to talk about situations you know would make your child uncomfortable. Ask kids about any times they’ve felt strange, “off,” or uncomfortable, and describe how that felt. Thinking through these uncomfortable situations now can help keep your child safe later.
If your child seems fearful or starts to get anxious while you’re talking, back off a bit. This is a lot for kids to take in or express. Break down your child’s present feelings and talk about them. Then, later on, you can go back and talk through the uncomfortable scenario more.
Talk about “tricky people.”
The idea of strangers can be confusing for some kids. And some unsafe people are, unfortunately, people your kids actually know—people they may see regularly. One way to explain who to watch out for is by talking about “tricky people.” When your child is young, say, “Most people are pretty good.
But some people have problems and they’re not so good. It’s my job to protect you from them.” As kids get older, though, start to mention that they are in charge of their safety, too. And if they ever feel like someone, whether they know the person or not, is tricky, they can come to you to talk about it.