Smart parenting, safer kids
Smart parenting, safer kids
The current generation of parents grew up in a time that they reminisce about as having greater freedom than they allow their own children. It’s ironic really – as in other ways children today have been exposed at a much younger age than their parents to adult behaviours and attitudes, but without the emotional maturity to deal with the consequences. We can’t supervise our children all the time but can teach them how to stay safe and recognise and avoid dangerous situations they may encounter.
Professor Briggs, AO. leading authority on child protection and author of Smart Parenting for Safer Kids says the challenge is to get the balance right.
Smart Parenting for Safer Kids has lots of practical games and tips that parents can use to teach their kids how to be safe:
Games and Hypothetical Situation Exercises
• Using puppets or dolls to demonstrate wanted versus unwanted and wrong touching. The puppet guides the child through various scenarios involving unwanted and wrong touches and then asks the child for advice on what s/he should do to resolve the problem.
• “Secrets that should be told” Game – a simple game to play with children where you help them recognise and identify good secrets and bad secrets. Both juvenile and adult offenders rely on secrecy for their own safety, referring to what they are doing as “our special secret” or saying, “If you tell anyone, (terrible things will happen).”
Explain to children that good secrets are good surprises that are kept until the time is right. Bad secrets are ones that we’re told we can’t tell anyone ever and give uncomfortable and worrying feelings. Bad secrets must always be told.
For example: If daddy buys mummy a present for her birthday and says not to tell – is that a good or a bad secret? If our neighbour says ‘can you show me your underpants but don’t tell anyone’ is that a good secret or a bad secret?
• Not talking to children about dangerous strangers – children need help from strangers in emergencies, the challenge being to choose the safest person to approach. Children see their parents talk to strangers every day and suffer no harm and young children especially don’t understand the definition of a stranger (eg. if someone befriends them, then children think they are not a stranger).
Giving children the power of remembering 3 questions in this situation is imperative:
Will mum know where I am if I go?
Will I be able to get help if I need?
Do I feel comfortable about this?
If there isn’t a resounding YES to each of these questions then the child should be coached to respond “I’ll have to go and ask my mum first”.
Tips and Exercises
• We teach children that goodness involves obedient to adults. Never say, “Be good and do what you are told” when you leave your child with other people. Children will obey an abusive child minder even when they know that what is happening is wrong. They fear that disobedience will result in the minder and parents being angry and they risk losing their parents’ affection. Helping children understand what feels right and what doesn’t also gives them the ability to act in situations that aren’t right – for example, shouting ‘Stop – that’s not allowed!’
• Help children develop problem solving and safety skills. For example, ask them open-ended ‘what if?’ questions about harmful or uncomfortable scenarios, such as how to respond after being offered a lift home by a stranger or what to do when they can’t find their parents. Use a third party approach and give your child time to look at problems from different angles, so that they can gain a more complex perspective. If the child provides an unsafe response, don’t correct them or tell them they are wrong. Rather, follow with ‘what do you think would happen if someone did that?’
• Making a feelings book for your child and getting them to finish these sentences with their pictures or words: “I feel safe when”; “I feel sad when”’; “I feel frightened when”. This gives you an insight into what your child may be feeling and experiencing and you can act and address these issues appropriately. Do not deny your child’s feelings and say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of”. Sympathise by saying that you can understand that it must be awful to be in that situation and you want to help.