KEEP KIDS SAFE AND PROTECTED

As parents, it is only natural that we want to wrap our children up in metaphorical cotton wool (with an added layer of figurative bubble wrap!) and keep them out of harm’s way. Unfortunately – as much as we would like it to do so, keeping our little ones safe in our arms forever isn’t a realistic feat. Their personal safety fundamentally relies on how well we as parents can prepare them for responding to potentially unsafe situations. Children should not be expected to keep themselves safe, this is the job of adults. As parents we can play our part by ensuring we are providing the right education at right time when it comes to helping our kids understand personal safety.

Whether it’s at school, online, at the local park, or anywhere in the world for that matter, there are potential threats to their physical or mental state of being. At some stage during childhood your child might be vulnerable to bullying, abuse or experiencing harm. Our job is to provide our kids with the skills they need to make safe and healthy choices without making them afraid of their world.  We can all remember ‘the talk’ about the birds and the bees and many parents approach talking about personal safety in the same way.  There is a very important difference though, just as the birds and bees talk should never be a one off, talking about personal safety must be an ongoing conversation with your child.  Start talking early in your child’s life about things like understanding feelings and anatomical names for private body parts and grow your conversations as your child gets older. By the time you have a teenager, talking about the latest gaming craze or how to safely use Snapchat will be a breeze. So if you haven’t started talking about personal safety, then there is no time like the present. Instilling key safety messages from an early age will help set your children up for life.

Not sure how to approach it? We’ve got some ideas for you below.

1. Defining safety – The best way to get your child thinking about their own personal safety is by working out what it means, in their own words, to feel safe. Ask them to describe what safety means to them, and which people and settings in their life, make them feel safe and comfortable. Get your child to identify the feelings associated with safety as well as how they might feel if they were n an unsafe situation, whether in real life or while online. This will help them to be more observant and intuitive in situations and better understand the different feelings and emotions associated with being ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’, so they can make smart and possibly life-saving choices in the future.

2. Talk through potentially unsafe situations– Depending on their age, it’s important to educate kids on possible unsafe situations. Use different scenarios to see how they would feel and react, for example, “what would you do if one of your friends brought a lighter to school and told you they were going to burn some leaves at lunchtime?” or “what could you do if someone you don’t know, starts a conversation with you online?”. If their response to the answer needs a little work, or they don’t know, help educate them on what to do, so that if the situation ever arises they will know how to respond.

3. Reinforce what they learn at school – A great way to talk about personal safety is by speaking with their teacher at school and finding out what is being taught on this subject in the classroom. Then, when you are at home, or in the car, ask your child what they have learnt at school about staying safe, to start a discussion. This will help you gauge how much they truly know, as well as help you build on the framework they have already learnt.

4. Instill the ‘3 R’s’ – Get your kids to learn and remember the three ‘3 R’s’ – Recognise, React and Report. Encourage your kids to be aware of their surroundings and to recognise body clues in situations where they don't feel safe. If they ever find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, teach them the best way for them to react is to consider choices that may keep them safe or help make them safe again as quickly as possible. Stress the importance of talking to an adult to report an unsafe situation. This is a technique promoted by the Daniel Morcombe Foundation. The Foundation has a number of great online resources and activities via their website for parents and schools to access. Visit www.danielmorcombe.com.au

Chanelle Shibata