In the wake of the tragic case of Charish Periwinkle, many parents are holding their children a little closer today, being just a bit more careful. The best way to safeguard your children against predators is to teach them to protect themselves. By giving your child simple, usable and current advice, they become their own best defense.
- Don’t talk to strangers- This is age old advice. Every parents drills it into their child’s head and every child can repeat it like a mantra. The mistake is to stop the lesson there. Who is a stranger? Many children imagine the stranger as some masked villain, they need to know that strangers look like everyone body else. Explain that a bad guy doesn’t always look like a monster in a movie. A stranger is anyone you don’t know well. Of course you don’t want your children to think all strangers are bad, If they need help they can ask a police officer. A good piece of advice is to teach your children that when in doubt find a mom with children and ask for help.
- Teach your children about pedophiles often and early. Use bath time to talk to them about what body parts are off limits. Let them know to tell you right away if any one tries to touch these areas or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way.
- Parents often focus on unknown adults as potential predators. In 90 percent of cases victims know their molesters. Teach your children to say no to any adult that is making them feel uncomfortable and that it’s okay to yell and run away from an adult in a dangerous situation. Many children are told so often to be polite and respect their elders, so they aren’t sure how to react when an adult is inappropriate with them.
- Use movies or current news stories to discuss stranger danger or predators with your children. Many times parents want to shelter their kids from tragic stories of child victims in the news. In an age appropriate way, you can discuss the situation the child victim faced and ask your child what they would have done differently.
- Safety from predators needs to be an ongoing conversation. This is not a “one and done” lesson. As your children mature, so should your conversation. The more your children interact with the world, the more you can arm them with ways to stay safe.
Parents have a better chance of keeping their children safe if both parent and child are informed. Keep the lines of communication open and make sure your children feel comfortable and safe with any questions.