Chapter Thirteen: Educating Your Children to Protect Themselves

Teaching children to protect themselves if they were to ever be caught in dangerous situations is important for a parent to do. It is virtually impossible to be by your child’s side at all times. For this reason, parents should teach their children methods and techniques to protect themselves when no one is around.

As a parent, it is impossible to watch over your children at all times of the day. That’s why it is so important that parents teach their kids how to identify and assess potentially dangerous situations and ways to deal with them to protect themselves. By finding the right time to teach your children these skills, they will begin to understand the dangers more, and in turn, be more inclined to utilize these tactics if they had to.

Finding the right time to teach your child about the dangers they face and how to prevent them is a very delicate process that is not easy to do. Children are very vulnerable, so do these things at appropriate times and for appropriate age levels. Teaching a young child that any and all strangers are dangerous may actually be detrimental to their growth. They may become scared and traumatized by anyone who comes near them, or worse, they may be too scared to go to an adult in times of need, thinking they are all "bad" strangers.

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Good stranger vs Bad stranger

A good time to teach your child what constitutes a stranger, and a good stranger vs. a bad stranger, could be when they first start grade school. During grade school, children start to understand that their teachers and school volunteers are "good people," in most cases. Parents can teach their child that these strangers are the ones that they should go to if they need help with something and when you are not available. Kids can use this understanding of strangers in comparison to the other strangers that you show them out in public or in a magazine. This can help children differentiate between the fact that strangers that can be bad can come in all shapes and sizes, and that those strangers that wear uniform or are in their schools are considered the "good" strangers. As children get older, parents can begin to have more intimate conversations with their children on what those strangers can do to them and the possible consequences. Children need to understand from an early age to set limits, and learn about the limits of others.

Teach children their parents phone numbers and addresses

Around the time that your child reaches kindergarten or above (depending on his or her own cognitive level), it can be a good idea to teach them phone numbers and addresses of their parents and/or close family and loved ones. Depending on the child’s maturity level, parents need to start teaching their children important numbers as soon as they think their child is ready. In the case that your child is lost, kidnapped, or even abducted, they will be able to call home or mail a plea for help. Most kids are scared during these encounters, and they tend to freeze up and forget their numbers. It’s for this reason that practicing number memorization every day is important to helping them protect themselves and potentially prevent harsh consequences.

Keeping children safe in public places

As children get older, they begin to venture out of the house for play dates at the park or at the arcade, and as they grow even more, they begin to go see movies with friends or go to the mall. These are public spaces that make it extremely easy for a sexual predator to attack or kidnap them. To reduce the risk of this, teach your children from a young age to always stay together, and never go off to places, especially the bathroom, alone. When children are very young, make sure to stress how important it is to remain near you and within sight at all times. Teaching them at an early age that they should never be alone in large public spaces can help them become accustomed to this mantra and follow it throughout their lives to help protect themselves. If parents teach their children this, they condition them to want to be with others in public spaces and they will begin to not "feel right" if they are left alone or walk away alone. As your children approach their preteen years, you should still stress the dangers that come with straying away from a group or going places alone. This way, by the time they become teens and adults, they know to always stay with a group, no matter what.

Keeping children safe online

When the time comes to give your child a computer, or when they start using the home computer more often, the first thing you need to do is educate them on how to protect themselves online. Provide your child with the appropriate information about social networking sites, chat rooms, sexual predators and the dangers of talking to strangers online, even if they think they are of the same sex and/or age of your child. Parents need to teach their children that the people they are speaking to may not be who they claim to be. Explain to them how anyone can sit behind a computer and disguise themselves as good-intentioned people that "just want to be friends and confide in each other."

Warning children about how predators disguise themselves as friends to "warm up" to them and eventually establish sexual relationships with them, or even hurt them, can help them avoid it online. Emphasizing the dangers of not taking these precautionary measures can help children resist the desire to disobey and communicate with strangers. Again, keeping an open dialogue with your child is the key element to helping your children protect themselves. By allowing your children to confide in you as a parent, you can then step in and help your children first-hand. You can give them the most valuable and noteworthy aspect of parenthood and protection: unconditional love and support, which can help stop children from meeting with strangers or engaging in unsafe activities.