POV: Empowering your children to keep them safe

Recent disturbing news stories of child abuse at the hands of public and trusted figures, may be causing some parents to question whether their own children would know what to do in a similar situation.

Well, we do know this, those strategies have to be taught – very carefully taught – and reinforced regularly. Don’t assume your child will have the confidence to say no to an adult, and don’t assume your child will tell you if something does happen. The old sports adage applies here: “The best defense is a good offense.” That “offense” involves being open, honest and direct. It also involves preparing your child with very specific directions on what to do and who to tell. In the curriculum taught in school, children are taught about that “Uh oh feeling,” which is the sense you get when something doesn’t seem right. They are instructed to pay attention to situations that feel strange, to say no, to get away, and to tell someone.

We are all in agreement that although we want to protect our children from all evils in society, we cannot be with them every moment. So the next best thing is to arm children with the knowledge and strength to know what to do. The idea is that by being on the offense, the child may be able to prevent a bad situation and will be timely in reporting it to parents.

But that is still not enough. Parents need to pay attention and get involved. Telling a child what to do is just the beginning.

• Know where your child is at all times and with whom.

• Get to know the adults who interact with your child.

• Volunteer your time to help out with sports, scouts and other activities.

• When going someplace without you, a child should call upon arrival and departure.

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