Here are a few tips for protecting your children from various dangerous situations.
Information for Parents:
- Stress to your child that he or she should feel comfortable telling you anything, especially if it involves another adult. If your child does not feel comfortable being completely honest with you, then you should find another trusted adult your child can talk to in confidence.
- Educate your children that it is inappropriate for adults to engage children in sexual activity and to let you know immediately if they have been solicited.
- Make an effort to know the people with whom your child is spending time with online and offline.
- Protect your children from sexual assault. Teach your children about their bodies, give them the correct language to use when describing their private parts. Emphasize that those parts are special and should not be touched by anyone else.
- Get to know your children’s friends and be clear with your children about the places and homes they may or may not visit. Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times.
- Make it a rule that your children check in with you when they arrive at or depart from a particular location and when there is any change in plans. You should also let them know when YOU are running late or if your plans have changed so that they can see the rule is for safety purposes and not being used just to “check up” on them.
- Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, whether it is running or not. Children should never be left unsupervised or allowed to spend time alone in cars, considering the potential dangers to their safety outweigh any perceived convenience.
- Instruct children NEVER to hitch-hike, approach a stranger’s car or engage in a conversation with anyone in a car who they do not know or trust, or go anywhere without getting your permission first.
- Be involved in all your children’s activities. As an active parent, you will have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge of such activities interact with your children. Take it up with the sponsoring organization, if f you are concerned about anyone’s behaviour.
- Teach your children that they have the right to say “NO” to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing behaviour, especially touching. Teach them to tell you immediately if this happens.
- Reassure them that you are there to help them and it is okay to tell you anything even if it means they are “ratting” on someone.
- Listen to your children and trust their intuition. Pay attention if they tell you that they do not want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in an event. Take notice when someone shows your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about this person and find out why the person is acting this way.
- Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behaviour or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen for small cues that something may be troubling your children, because they are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, non-critical, and non-judgmental. Listen compassionately to their concern and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.
- Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers. Many places now have public registries that allow parents to screen individuals for prior criminal records and sex offences. Check references with other families who have used the caregiver or babysitter. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and listen carefully to their responses. If children are too young to talk about the details, consider installing a hidden web cam in your home.
- Practice basic child safety skills with your children. Make a trip to the mall or a park a lesson in which your children can practice checking with you by using pay phones, going to the restroom with a friend, or locating the adults who can help if they need assistance. Remember that allowing your children to wear clothing or carry items in public on which their name is displayed can bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people who may be looking for a way to start a conversation with your children.
- Remember that there is no substitute for your attention and supervision. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security. Also remember that in the vast majority of cases of up to 90%, children are molested by someone they know. Your efforts at keeping your child safe must be informed by this fact and not focused exclusively on the danger that strangers may present.
Information for Teenagers:
- Adolescence is an uncertain time for children, and one in which they are most at risk for sexual behaviour and assault. Prepare for the possibility that as adolescents, they may engage in some risk-taking behavior and try to minimize that risk by educating them about the danger of sexual assault by friends, acquaintances, authority figures or others.
- Encourage your teenager to trust their instincts and if a situation makes them uneasy, especially when alone, to get out of it immediately. This can be especially difficult for both children and adults who have been socialized to be polite.
- Stress to them that they can always talk to you about anything, even if they have been hurt or are scared, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident.
- Do not let them talk themselves out of feeling uncomfortable with someone simply because he or she is an acquaintance or a friend of a friend — most sexual abusers are someone the victim knows.
- Teach them to be wary of friends or dates who test their boundaries by making unwanted physical advances or ignore or minimize your protests and other signs that you do not like their behavior.
How to Improve Overall Safety:
- Talk openly about the sexual assault of adults and children, men, women, boys, and girls.
- Understand the issues involved in sexual assault. Know the statistics.
- Assume preventing sexual assault is everyone’s responsibility.
- Talk to your children about personal safety issues as they relate to child sexual abuse. Do this when you talk to your children about bike safety, crossing the street, or talking to strangers. It is, in many ways, just another personal safety rule about which children need to be aware.
- Increase your knowledge about risk reduction measures you can take to protect yourself.
- Invite your local law enforcement, probation/ parole department, rape crisis center, or child abuse prevention organization to a neighborhood discussion group to learn about the issue and to process people’s emotions.
- Get to know your neighbours.
- Organize neighbourhood block watches, if desired by your neighbors.
- Do not wait until you are informed that a sex offender is living nearby to begin educating yourself and family on issues of sexual assault.
- Find out what the statistics on child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, offender arrest, and incarceration are in your community.
Beware of the media’s ability to sensationalize the most horrific of stories concerning the sexual assault of children or adults. These stories, while real and very frightening, are not the norm.