Childhood should be a time of innocence, discovery and wonder, but unfortunately, the world is not free from danger. Parents have a primal instinct to protect their children from harm, but how can we do so without making them afraid of their own shadow? While it’s not fair to be explicit with children about the risks, not possible to wrap them up in cotton wool and certainly not fair to make them live in a bubble, there are ways to help your children stay safe from predators. Here are six essential tips all parents should keep in mind when protecting their children from predators.
Talk about sex and intimacy at an age-appropriate level
Some parents may believe that by avoiding the topic of sex, intimacy, and relationships they are protecting their child, but in reality they may be making them more vulnerable to predators. When children do not understand which parts of the body are private and what is inappropriate they will not know that what is happening to them is wrong. You only need to share as much information as is appropriate for their age, but at the very least they should know that private parts should not be touched.
Have a support network in place
Keep a list of all the addresses and phone numbers for your children’s friends’ families. If your child is missing you can work your way down the list alerting as many people as possible to help locate them quickly. When a child is missing, a speedy response could make all the difference to the outcome.
Make sure your children understand what is illegal behavior
In addition to knowing that certain touching, threatening behavior and language is inappropriate, children should also understand that the adults who do it are breaking the law and will be punished. They have no reason to feel shame or guilt and need to tell a trusted adult what has happened to them as soon as possible.
Check the background of the adults in their lives
Parents should know who is interacting with their children. You can now check the list of convicted offenders as they are a matter of public record so you can look into all the adults who are in contact with your child.
Tell them what to do if they feel unsafe and you’re not there
Children should be wary of strangers, but if they are lost, frightened, or in need of help, and they don’t know anyone around them, they need to be able to raise the alarm in some way. Rather than teaching children to avoid all strangers, you could advise them to find a mother with children or a shop worker as statistically they are less likely to pose a threat to them. Click here for more information on teaching children how to interact with strangers.
Don’t let young children play or travel unsupervised
It’s best not to let children under the age of 11 to walk to or from school alone or to play outside your garden without supervision. If the worst should happen, they will not be able to protect themselves.