How street smart are your children?
Parents can do a lot to help their children develop their self-confidence and so make them less likely to be a victim.
Staying safe is all about being in control, being one step ahead of potential danger; thinking on your feet and believing in your gut feel. Those of us who have good self-esteem are less likely to come into contact with danger. Why? Because we are more aware, more confident and we neither look like or are perceived to be the victim.
Parents have an important role to play in developing and maintaining a child’s confidence and ultimately their belief in themselves. The nurturing of this throughout childhood will benefit them for life.
“Basics” spells out the role that parents should adopt in helping a child’s independence and self worth.
B belonging: being valued within the family; making time to listen, setting routine
A aspirations: encouraging a child to dream and sometimes to fulfil those goals/dreams
S safety: set boundaries with experienced reasoning that can be easily understood for the age of child. Remember to tell kids what you expect from them – they cannot mind read
I identity: allow children to follow their own interests, learn their own strengths and weaknesses
C communication: develop coping strategies through open experience and good listening skills
S success: success breeds success, always reward and praise and provide feedback with solutions if not doing so well
As well as good self-esteem, children need to understand danger: what it means, how to react to it and, most importantly, how to avoid getting involved and if one does, what the consequences might be. Children need to be empowered with knowledge that will make them wise and street smart. It is not about listing the dangers to children, but more how to recognise an uncomfortable feeling through instincts and what appropriate behaviour would help counter the possible danger. Staying safe can be learned.
It is about wisdom and knowledge, looking and listening to what is happening around you and having the ability to keep away or to act appropriately. Communication is key. It begins at home, where safety lessons are first discussed and where they should continue to be reinforced. Involvement in your child’s life, friends, hobbies, entertainment, is important in maintaining open communication, allowing concerns and difficulties to be addressed and followed through.
As parents, we have a duty to really listen to our children, not to give lip service to their constant questions and desire to absorb from an early age. Only through listening and talking with, and not at, our children, are we as parents able to interpret and intercept a change in their manner or attitude that may lead to risk or danger.
Keeping safe can be taught
The principals of keeping safe, avoiding danger or being able to react positively in the face of danger, are lessons that can be learned. That is not to say that there are, sadly, occasions when we do become the victim, but this will help us to handle the situations as best we can.
The key lessons to keeping safe are:
Believing we all have a right to be safe: positive thinking is the key message; you are not a victim. Think about solving problems, finding a way through, have the language of safety, say NO, reframe your thoughts in order to be in control, be empowered to act, believe in you
Taking note of our instincts: bodily signs that tell us something is wrong
Knowing that nothing is so awful that we can’t talk about it: developing personal contacts for support; people to turn to
Safety has different meanings to different age groups;
0-4 years – safety means an adult whom the child is familiar with and happy to be with being present at all times. Safety is also practical solutions prepared by the adult to help avoid harm
5-8 years – safety to this age group is familiarity – children of this age thrive on regularity, repetition, constants; they like to know what is going to happen and what to expect. Boundaries play an important role here as children need to know what is expected of them – without boundaries children will push to extremes, not knowing when to stop; this is when behaviour gets out of control
8+ – children require self-confidence and good self-esteem to enable them to feel safe. This encourages them to have a greater sense of responsibility for their own actions. Children need to take control of their actions and to realise that behaviour is a choice with consequences. They will ask further questions and communication teaches them and reminds them of how to stay safe
The practice of achieving the above starts with developing a child’s confidence. Confidence that is an inner strength, good self-esteem where the individuals believe in themselves. Confidence in a child develops through parental consistency of love, patience, communication, empathy and knowledge. Knowledge is the lessons and wisdom given to a child through rules and boundaries set by family /everyday life. Once children reach an age to be able to understand the dangers that exist, role play using “what if” scenarios can provide a greater ability to cope with uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situations.
Positive Behaviour methods to help empower children to stay safe
Boundaries and rules taught from an early age, ie not to walk alone in an unlit area; hold on to your drink at a party with your hand over the top; do not give your personal details to anyone over the internet. These rules should become second nature to us and allow our protective strategies to kick in when confronted with danger
Looking and listening to what is happening around us and knowing what we can do to stay out of trouble or to cope with the situation
Help your child to understand these through role-play
Role play – the understanding between feeling safe and being scared; taking risks and feeling unsafe – set up “what if …” scenarios to cope with hypothetical situations
Be in touch with how we feel or what our intuition is telling us, and the consequences of our behaviour
Believing in ourselves – develop a sense of strength and power; not to overprotect; encourage problem solving and the ability to say NO
Physical strength – encourage sporting activities where confrontation has a strategy to overcome a difficulty
Anger – when angry, allow free expression, but learn to channel it constructively
Develop a network of contacts – remembering nothing is so awful that we can’t talk about it
Dos and Don’ts for children
Don’t talk to any stranger or get into a stranger’s car or go off with anyone unknown to you
Don’t accept any gift from any stranger
Don’t eat anything given by a stranger or that you do not recognise as food
Stay with the person looking after you; stay in a group – don’t wander off on your own
Only go where you have told your parent or guardian you are going – if plans change, tell your parent
Keep out of trouble – don’t join in other children’s squabbles, physical or verbal
Tell your parents if you receive any strange or repeated phone, text or e-mail messages, even if they are from friends or relatives
Tell your parents or teacher about any bullying or physical assault
Tell your parents or teacher if you are offered drugs, alcohol or cigarettes
Report any unusual personal approach by anyone to your parents
Never go out alone – always go with a friend or two and don’t get separated from them
Avoid any dark alleys, country paths, unlit streets, empty or unfamiliar buildings
Know how to get help – phone 999 emergency services. Stay on the line so that the police can trace your whereabouts
Know your full name, address and telephone details. Older children should be able to call their parents at work – so they need to know the telephone number and access times. They should also have another adult that they can get hold of should they be in any sort of trouble and cannot get hold of their parents
Younger children should discuss the safety procedures as outlined above.
They should be encouraged to repeat the messages over and over again and to roll-play them
When teenagers arrive home alone from school, they should get in the habit of lock the door and calling their parents to let them know they are back; never tell visitors or phone callers you are alone – take a message and only let in known and trusted people.
And for parents, stories in the news can illustrate potential dangers – you should be able to explain these without being alarmist. Children are naturally trusting – make sure you teach them these basic safety rules.