07.24.12 Truth & Wisdom
I had been willfully putting off a conversation with my kids. They were 5 and 6 years old, and to them the world was a safe and magical place full of opportunities for adventure and discovery. Sure, there were the occasional nightmares about Darth Vader or Malificent, but Mommy was always able to wipe away their tears and assure them that those terrible characters were only born of a writer’s imagination: “You’re perfectly safe sweetie, that’s just make believe. Now get some sleep.” I loved the world they lived in… cozy, protected and filled with goodness. I dreaded the day that I would have to tell them otherwise.
But I knew my children’s worlds were expanding, despite my natural (and unhealthy) desire to keep them completely isolated. Forever. Still, deep down, I knew I couldn’t keep them from eventually experiencing the world in all its complexity.
And so, the time had come for me to face my own fears and do some research, so that I could educate my kids without scaring them. As I began to read, I first learned that avoidance, denial and misplaced worry are much more of a threat to my children than any one person, (or electrical socket, plastic bag or terrorist attack, for that matter). I also learned that by having conversations with my kids, I was not destroying their utopian worldview but giving them yet another opportunity to feel empowered.
I encourage you to click on the links at the end of this article for more in depth information about what all our kids should know and how we should tell them. But first, below I’ve listed the most powerful ideas I took away from my research—As it turns out, with the right resources and tips, facing my fears wasn’t so bad after all.
1. Don’t be distracted by misguided worry.
Sometimes it’s easier to spend time worrying about things that, in reality, are not very likely to happen to our children: terrorist attacks, plane crashes or the downward spiral their lives will take if they don’t get into the right preschool. That endless worry, besides being unhealthy can also be a distraction from seeing the signs of real threats. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, statistics show that 1 in 5 boys and 1 in 3 girls are sexually exploited. So, as a parent, it’s incredibly important to be aware and educate oneself to how predators operate, how to minimize dangerous situations and how to talk and listen to our children about the subject.
2. Trust your good judgment.
Trust your good judgment and teach your children to do the same. Trusting yourself to take reasonable precaution is the exact opposite of living in fear. Making realistic and simple plans with your children about how to access help or advice when they will be away from you is one of the smartest prevention tactics you can take.
3. Don’t be shy.
If someone or some situation makes you uneasy, don’t deny your feelings and don’t rationalize. If you instinctively don’t like the caretaker on the playground who always seems to be stroking kids’ hair or is too touchy, say something. Speak up and point out what you don’t like. Then let your kids know how you feel. Abuse can impair children’s physical and psychological health, their education and their life-chances; it is not something that they grow out of. Don’t mess around. Don’t be nice.
4. Take action.
If you’re worried about something, and there is an action you can take, then take it. Seek advice from friends, read up about neighborhood safety and watch reliable programs. Most importantly, ask questions about the background of people who interact with your kids.
5. Know the facts.
Over 90% of child abuse is committed by someone the child knows and trusts – a family member, a family friend, a babysitter, sometimes other children and sometimes those who work with children. Abuse can happen in any section of society, rich or poor, in any religious or ethnic group, and perpetrators can be either male or female. For these reasons, while the mantra “Stranger Danger” is important to empower your child, so is you having the conversation about what is appropriate and inappropriate touch from anyone they know…open the conversation in a matter of fact way, not with anxiety and fear.
6. Feel gratitude.
Notice just how well you and your kids navigate life each and every day. Praise them when they make good decisions. They’ll notice it if you do.
7. Share intuition & perceptions.
Talk to your kids about their intuitions and perceptions of people. We all start out teaching our kids not to talk to strangers, but eventually life requires that they do just that. Talk to your kids often about their perceptions of other people as well as your own.
“That man made me feel uncomfortable. What about you?”
“If I was in trouble I think I’d ask that lady to help me. She seems very nice and helpful. Who would you pick?”
“What would you do if a car stopped and someone asked directions? Suppose they ask you to come closer to the car?”
8. Practice yelling.
When people find themselves in frightening, shocking or non-everyday circumstances, their bodies and minds can be at a loss for the right words or actions. Like in natural childbirth or self-defense classes, students are asked to practice what they will do in different circumstances and what they will say. This practice gives a person body memory. When we practice with our kids, we can give them the words they’ll need and let them feel the power of their voice. Practice with them yelling out “Get away from me!” in a loud voice if they find themselves approached by strangers.
9. Know the power you have as a parent.
Know that as a parent you have real power. When dreaded outcomes are actually imminent, you won’t worry, you’ll kick ass.
10. Investigate more.
Investigate “The Test of Twelve” for guidance on what your kids should know in order to be well equipped to protect themselves.
Continue by exploring these articles which got started me on my research:
Featured image by Visit Greenwich on Flickr