Virtually all parents are concerned about the safety of their elementary-age children but few know what to do about it. Worrying doesn’t do much to keep our children safe. Despite the fervent wishes of more than a few moms that I know, we cannot wrap our children in bubble wrap and keep them secure from all harm until their eighteenth birthday. They will be out of our sight and control at some point no matter what we do.
I have spoken to so many parents who are deeply concerned about protecting their children but overlook one simple but important step in the safe parenting process. You must include your child.
This seems like an absurd simplification but I’ve seen it trip up well-meaning and otherwise well-prepared parents. Parents are sometimes so afraid of scaring their children that they hide the fact that the world is a dangerous place all the while fighting a frantic battle to keep their child safe from harm. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Kids should understand the dangers, or at least that dangers exist. By the time they start elementary school, our children need to be at least marginally aware of “stranger danger”. This can be a difficult topic for some parents to broach. There is a fine line between educating our children about potential danger and scaring the living bejeezus out of them.
If you don’t know how to strike the right balance, you can find helpful aids to make the conversation positive and productive. The Safe Side (www.thesafeside.com) has produced an excellent video that teaches children about the some of the dangers out there without being frightening. We used their materials with both our children and while the Safe Side DVDs never achieved the same level of popularity as Thomas the Tank Engine or Hot Wheels in our house, the boys both watched them more than once without complaining.
However you approach the topic, do approach it. Practice with your children. I can’t tell you how many times we played “Krav Maga” in our living room. Krav Maga is an Israeli street fighting martial art that my son thought he had mastered in kindergarten. In reality, he learned that he should never go anywhere with a stranger and that if someone tried to grab him — one of our favorite scenarios was the stranger who tried to take him outside at a Wal-Mart — he should strike quickly and loudly then run away.
The lessons can be fun. Any activity that includes punching, kicking, and screaming was always appreciated in our house. Your child does not need to become a martial arts expert, he or she just needs to be aware of danger and ready to escape quickly and noisily. Whenever the words “the louder the better” are involved, kids are going to love it.