It’s natural for most parents to want to protect their children from harm, including protecting them from hearing about uncomfortable topics. Like death and disasters, crimes against children are very uncomfortable topics. As an author, black belt, personal safety expert, and the mother of an abducted child who escaped her attacker, I offer these six easy personal safety tips for kids help prevent such unspeakable crimes.
Know who is a Good Guy and who is a Bad Guy
It’s necessary for you to explain to your children that there are good guys and bad guys in the world. If you don’t tell them, who will? Good people act in nice, loving ways. Bad people act mean and violent and hurt kids and others.
Bad guys look like normal people, most of the time. They don’t wear a sign that says “Bully”, “Bad Guy”, “Child Molester” or “Violent Parent.” It would be easier to identify and arrest them if they wore a sign. But they don’t.
This is a good rule for children to follow when trying to size up another kid or an adult TRUST YOUR GUT FEELINGS! This is what you can say to your child: If being around a certain person gives you an icky feeling in your stomach, that’s your gut telling you something important. It doesn’t matter how a person looks on the outside. If a certain person makes you feel uncomfortable, bad, or scared - trust your gut feeling and stay away from that person!
Self-Confidence is your Best Self-Defense Tool
Some kids are self-confident and some kids are not. When it comes to personal safety, a child who is NOT confident is more likely to be chosen as a victim by a bully, mean girl, or child predator. Remember, bad guys want easy victims who will not put up much of a fuss when confronted.
Confidence is a belief in ones own self-worth, a general optimism concerning ones accomplishments, and a certainty of succeeding at whatever is attempted. A commonly held belief is that kids who are self-confident will be able to achieve more, get better grades, excel at sports and the arts, express themselves better, and command a certain respect from others.
Self-confident kids are easy to spot. They stand tall, speak directly, and look people in the eye. If a kid is confident, it shows in how they talk, walk, interact with others, and how they interpret life events. They are self-assured without being arrogant or cocky.
Why are some kids confident and some are insecure? Good question. I think confidence is instilled in children by their parents or care providers through love, praise, encouragement, and personal successes.
Stay Away from Strangers
The criminals in the world have made it impossible for people and especially innocent children to trust a stranger. Who knows…that nice-looking stranger might be the spawn of Ted Bundy or Charles Manson. So in order to protect ourselves and our little ones, we have been conditioned to mistrust all strangers. Sad but true.
There are very few small towns left today where everyone knows everyone else. The fact is we’re all strangers to someone every day of our lives; this is a necessary evil in our world. For safety’s sake, children need to be taught to avoid and fear all strangers.
The truth is not everyone is out to get you, but some are. That’s the kicker.
We need to avoid all strangers because of those creepy few. As adults we may have the skills to decipher good strangers from bad strangers much of the time, but your kids won’t develop this skill for another twenty years. In the meantime, they need to AVOID ALL STRANGERS. Avoiding strangers should be an unbreakable family rule.
Know the 3 Magic Numbers
I believe parents should teach their children about 911 before they teach them the ABCs. 911 is a central number for all types of emergencies. An emergency dispatch operator quickly takes information from the caller and puts the caller in direct contact with whatever emergency personnel are needed, thus making response time quicker.
For younger children, it might also help to talk about who the emergency workers are in your community - police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and so on - and what kinds of things they do to help people who are in trouble.
Kids need to know that if they are in a dangerous situation that they can call for help by dialing 911. Teaching children how to use 911 in an emergency could be one of the simplest - and most important - lessons you’ll ever teach your child. Kids need to be taught how to physically make a 911 call on a cell phone and on a home phone.
Phones aren’t as easy and intuitive to use as they once were, especially some cell phone. With toddlers, you can start with a toy phone then progress to a real phone. Lastly, to reinforce the importance of 911, stick the numbers 9-1-1 on your fridge with magnetic letters.
Use the Buddy System
Whether a child is walking to or from school, waiting at the bus stop, going to the park after school to play with friends or participating in extra-curricular activities, children should always be with a buddy (friend, school mate, neighborhood kid, sibling, etc.). They should never go anywhere outside of their home or school alone. It’s just too dangerous.
A single boy or girl out alone is a prime target for bullies and bad guys. Walk with your kids to school, wait at the bus stop with them, and be a watchful sentry like a Queen’s Guard for your little princes and princesses. If you can’t be with them at all times, enlist others to help you, such as grandparents, neighbors, and babysitters.
Insist that your kids never go outdoors alone or unsupervised, even in their own back yard. If they leave the house, they MUST always have a buddy or two or three with them. Better yet, have a trusted adult along for the ride. They will complain that you are being over-protective, but ignore their pleas for a longer leash. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and safety.
Be a Good Citizen
I believe that good citizens aren’t born; they’re created by their parents and their teachers. You have the power to train the children in your care to be good, kind, responsible, respectful, compassionate citizens of the world. And Lord knows the world needs many, many more good citizens!
How do you create good little citizens? You teach by example. Be what you want them to be. Be good, be kind, be responsible, be respectful, and be a compassionate person. Love others, love your country, love Nature, and love all living things. If you instill these qualities in your children, they will act accordingly. They will rise up and help others when the need arises.