Lots of kids and families are preparing to head back to school right now for the start of a new school year at least “up here” where we live in the US, Canada and Europe. For those of you who aren’t going back to school right now, or those of you that Homeschool, these tips can still keep your child safer today than yesterday.
Back To School families typically focus on new clothes, shoes, book bags and school supplies. That’s great. We want to add in a “Back To School Safer” awareness to their list of things to remember.
There are three immediate things parents can do, things you can teach your child, right away, today. It’s simply about education, knowledge and awareness, not paranoia. So, when teaching these things to your child, keep a light-hearted approach and atmosphere. We’re endorsing a better awareness for kids and families, not fear.
The fact is, your child is going to be around new teachers, students, coaches, counselors and acquaintances when YOU Mom and Dad, are not around. Your child needs an ability to keep themselves safe when they are out and about in today’s world. There are a few things parents and kids can do together at home to make sure they are safer this year than ever before.
First, teach your child to project confidence. Confident kids are naturally less of a target for predators. This means bullies at school, too. A confident child is a child that stands tall, shoulders back, head high and with eyes alert to their environment. This type of posture subconsciously projects a struggle, a notion of, “I’m not going to be that easy to pick on,” to anyone looking for a victim.
Sad kids, those that look like they are unhappy, those with stooped shoulders and a shuffling gate, look like they are in need of a friend. We know many child predators like to befriend a child first, offer presents and kind words, and take their time patiently to lure a child into a friendship before they abuse or molest them.
A big part of building confidence in your child is doing daily what we call, “Catch Them Being Good.” It’s easy for us as parents to notice the things our kids do wrong. But a short moment, noticing your child doing something right, and a “Hey, Sally, that was great!” goes much further in teaching your child to feel good about themselves in only seconds a day. This is a big first step in solid confidence building and something you can easily do.
Second, teach your child to keep a safe distance from a stranger. We call it a “Circle Of Safety” and it’s about 15 feet. Your child can still talk to them at this distance but have time to react in case it’s a bad stranger. Your child can turn and run and get safely away at this 15′ distance.
For the most part, this is when your child is outdoors and finds themselves alone, like on a playground, on a sidewalk or in the yard, being approached by someone they don’t know. In school, when there are lots of other students and adults around, it’s just something they should know.
Third, teach your child to listen to their “Belly Brain.” This is the “gut reaction” we as adults have, that instinctively tells us something is not right. Your child has it too. We simply have to teach them they have it and then, to listen to it. And, teach your child that their “Belly Brain” is never wrong.
Today, this is a critical skill for your child to have, especially for those kids surfing the Internet. When your child reaches a website they shouldn’t be on or stumbles upon one inadvertently, their “Belly Brain” is going to go off. They need to know to get off that site when their stomach feels funny and signals them.
If your child ever finds themselves alone in a situation with an inappropriate adult or teenager, their “Belly Brain” is again going to go off. It is going to give them that “funny feeling” and when it happens, they need to know it is “OK” to feel that way and to leave the room or place they are immediately. They need to know it is “OK” for them to find a trusted adult, you, and tell you about it. And, this includes surfing the Web.
We study the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) information to stay one step in front of child predators and they have some great Online Safety Tips. Online predators troll for kids behind the anonymity of a user name and keyboard. The Belly Brain can give your child an advantage in being able to take appropriate action if ever in a situation where any danger from predators threatens them.
These three Quick Tips are really just the tip of the personal child safety iceberg, but they are very effective. They are also simple and easy and you can introduce and teach you child them in just minutes a day for a lifetime of results.
Joyce Jackson is a child safety expert in northern California. For her extensive website and information see “Keeping Kids Safe” and a free special report .