Today I will be answering the questions which came to me from many different people via email that all boiled down to one thing – How can I keep my kids safe?
To give a really blunt answer, you can’t. There is nothing you can do that will keep your child 100% safe from all possible danger in this world. You will be able to breathe a lot easier if you give in to the undeniable fact that your child will get bumps, bruises, strains, sprains, infections, contusions, abrasions, colds, cases of flu, and maybe even fractures, concussions and broken bones – even if your parenting is flawless. These are things that happen in life. Your child might get bullied or be a bully at some point. Kids will keep secrets from you, tell lies, and convince themselves that you could never understand what they are going through. You did the same thing growing up.
Having said that, there is a lot that you can do to improve the odds of your child making it successfully and safely through childhood and into adulthood. What follows is a series of ideas you can implement that should give you some peace of mind.
Get Your Head Out of Your Apps
I stole the term from Alain Burrese, but it is the perfect term for this.
So many people cannot get their face away from their phone to see what is going on around them that it is tantamount to the real zombie apocalypse.
When you are with your child, actually be with your child. If you are not aware, there are so many things that can go horribly wrong. The simple act of paying attention can make a world of difference. As I write this, there is a news story about a woman whose baby drowned in the bath while she was looking at Facebook.
If your social media “newsfeed” is of greater importance than your child, then you are an idiot. Put it away, especially in public. You will survive waiting until you are home to see what political rant your friends have posted. Social media is one of the least important things you will do in your day, the time you give your kid is the most important of all, so treat it as such.
By the time your kid is a teen, you need to be sure that there are no topics that are off-limits. Being a parent does not mean you will always be comfortable with what is said to you. It is vital to keep those lines of communication open and be sure that your child knows that nothing is off-limits to tell me does not mean that you will not be upset, it means that they do not have to feel the need to hide things from you.
And I need to stress that I am not condoning the snowflake mentality that thinks you need to be your child’s friend, you still need to be the parent, you are there to provide and guide and protect and teach.
The teaching part of the parenting job can be hard. It involves making sure that your kid knows that lessons learned by screwing up are harder than those learned by listening to your elders. It means there are times you will want to scream at your kid about their stupidity, but instead go pick them up from a party where they got drunk and called you instead of trying to drive home or let one of their equally drunk friends drive them. You will want to read them the riot act over being drunk, but you need to also see that calling you to pick them up was the better option in front of them.
They have to be able to come to you.
Instead of Stranger Danger, Just Danger
In looking at the numbers, a child is more likely to be abducted by someone they know. In the majority of child abductions, it is by a parent who did not/could not get legal custody. Children are molested more by relatives and people that are known to them than by strangers. Stranger Danger taglines sell classes to parents who are genuinely concerned but place the focus on an area where there is less risk. If your kid knows not to go anywhere with strangers and knows to not let them approach and what to do if they try to approach, then you can start to spend some time making your kid aware of other dangers, behavioral red flags that show something isn’t right. And be sure to teach them that these red flags can come from anywhere, not just strangers.
Throughout their childhood, you can provide them with the habit of best practices. For a child to not place themselves in a situation of being alone with an adult is an example. When I teach, as an example I will use my after school program, the students are taught from day one that the first person there will stand outside of the room holding the door open until a couple more students arrive. I do this because it reinforces the idea that they need to avoid situations of being alone with an adult. If I allowed them to wait inside the room alone with me, they might transfer the fact of being safe when alone with me into situations of being safe when alone with another adult, and that is certainly not a best practice. Things like this should be as common as look both ways before crossing the street, but they are not. Take the time to be sure your child grows up using best practices regarding safety.
This list is incomplete, but it will, I hope, provide a point of departure for you to begin considering how to address the ways of keeping your child safe that are within your power.
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