Since I can’t be with my kids 24/7 to ensure their safety, it can bring emotions of anxiety, fear, and frankly, sometimes can be overwhelming. The world can be a very scary place.
While I’d like to think that something horrible we see on the news could never happen to our family or my kids, I know that isn’t necessarily the case. I also don’t want to scare my kids or make them even more anxious by constantly helicoptering over them or warning them to be careful.
How to Talk to Kids About Safety
Here are a few things I’ve been intentionally aware of through conversations with them about safety.
Avoid stranger danger talk
We’ve all heard about “stranger danger” and there are lots of conversations about it in schools and other settings. I do think it’s worth a conversation to have but instead of using the term “stranger,” we talk to our kids about “tricky” people instead. Unfortunately, the statistics show that harm caused to children is commonly by someone they know.
We also avoid warning them about kidnapping or other dangerous situations, but rather focus on safety in general.
- Talk to the kids about being aware of their surroundings
- If someone gives them a funny feeling, to trust themselves and to find a trusting adult (more about that later.)
- We talk about how sometimes tricky people (reiterating that tricky people can be people we are both familiar with and unfamiliar with) don’t have the best intentions and like to try to talk children into doing things that aren’t safe.
- Things that aren’t safe could be getting in the car with a tricky person or taking candy or other objects from them. We’ve talked about these different situations, what they can do, and what they can say.
- Tell kids unless they hear from Mom or Dad, they should not get in the car with anyone, regardless if they tell them we said it was ok.
You can also ask your children what they may do in certain situations and role play the scenario of what they can do and say. We have talked to our kids that unless they are with a trusted adult, they should never talk to another adult they don’t know.
Establish Simple Safety Rules
We’ve taught our kids, in age appropriate terms some simple rules regarding safety. They are as following:
- Do not go anywhere with or talk to people you don’t know
- It’s ok to say no and walk away if someone is making you feel uncomfortable or trying to get you to break a safety rule.
- No one should touch you without your permission (this includes hugs, etc) We also have taught our kids that if they want to hug a friend- they should ask first.
- No one should touch you in your private areas and no one should ask or make you touch them (this includes familiar and unfamiliar people) We’ve also worked on calling our parts by their actual names so that
- Mom and Dad will always believe you if you tell us someone tried to get you to break these safety rules
Identify Safe Adults
One thing I’ve found hard about navigating the conversation about safe adults is the gray area of talking to my kids about adults who are safe and trustworthy, especially community helpers. Because even community members can be “tricky” and I don’t want my kids to not question something because of someone’s community member status (like a doctor, for example). Generally, though, we see these community members as safe and trustworthy. These community members have made our list of “safe” people to look for if you are in any kind of trouble.
I also tell my kids to look for an adult who has kids with them. We also have a list of trusted family members who they can tell if something isn’t right. (grandparents, aunts, etc.) Helping your kids identify who is safe is also an important part of the safety conversation.