PERSONAL SAFETY for children and young people
Talking about personal safety with your child can be perceived as difficult for many parents. As parents and carers of children, there are a number of key steps we can take to build resilience and protect our kids against sexual harm.
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How Parents can protect their children:
- TEACH THEM EARLY ABOUT PERSONAL SAFETY It’s never too early to sow the seeds of personal safety. As parents, we need to teach our children 5 basic principles (which form the basis of our personal safety education program for young children, Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure). These principles are:
1 To trust their feelings and to distinguish between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ feelings
2 To say ‘no’ to adults if they feel unsafe and unsure
3 That they own their own bodies
4 That nothing is so yucky that they can’t tell someone about it
5 That if they feel unsafe or unsure to run and tell someone they trust.
- TALK TO YOUR KIDS Encourage your children to feel comfortable telling you anything, especially if it involves another adult. Encourage your children to identify other trusted adults they can talk to in confidence.
- BE AWARE Learn about the people with whom your child is spending time. Take notice if someone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take time to talk to your children, find out why the person is acting in this way.
- EMPOWER YOUR KIDS Knowledge is power. Teach your children about their bodies. Teach them the correct language to use when describing their private parts. Emphasise that those parts are private. This will make them more at ease if they need to tell you about a touch that made them feel uncomfortable. Additionally, if a child uses a word like ‘garage’ or ‘golf stick’ to describe their private parts, a disclosure might be missed.
- GET INVOLVED Be an active participant with your children’s activities, you will have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned about anyone’s behaviour, take it up with the sponsoring organisation.
- TEACH THEM THEIR RIGHTS Teach your kids that they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others. Teach them to tell you immediately if this happens. Reassure them that you are there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.
- NOTICE CHANGES IN BEHAVIOUR Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behaviour or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small indications that something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, non-critical, and non judgemental. Listen compassionately to their concern and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.
- PRACTICE SAFETY SKILLS Practice basic safety skills with your children. Make an outing to a mall or a park a ‘teachable’ experience in which your children can practice checking with you, using pay phones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who can help if they need assistance.
- CYBER-SAFETY IS IMPORTANT TOO Teach your child never to give out their last name, address, or phone number to a person on the Internet and never to meet Internet friends in person without a parent’s supervision and consent. Parents should help children choose a screen name that does not disclose information about their location. Teach children not to post pictures with identifying information such as a school uniform. Always keep your computer in a public area of your house – not in a child’s bedroom. If multiple computers for multiple children are necessary, consider laptops with wireless Internet.
Basic Rules For Your Children
Additionally there are some basic rules that we need to teach our children to keep them safe when they are not at home or with their parents.
Rules for younger children might include:
- Know your name, address, phone number and your parents’ name;
- Always check with your parents or person in charge before going anywhere – even going somewhere with someone you know;
- Always take a friend with you when you go somewhere; and
- Never go anywhere with someone you don’t know – run away if someone tries to get you to go with them.
Rules for older children and teens might include:
- Don’t go out alone – there is safety in numbers;
- Always let an adult know where you are going;
- Never go anywhere with someone you don’t know; and
- You can say ‘no’ if someone makes you feel uncomfortable or threatens or pressures you to do something you don’t want to.