When Do I Start Teaching My Child About Personal Safety? (page 2)
Parents and guardians often wonder at what age they can begin teaching their children about personal safety. While it would be convenient if there was a determined age, "one size" doesn't fit everybody. A child's ability to comprehend and practice safety skills is determined by the child's age and educational and developmental levels.1 It is also important that parents and guardians realize that children need to model, rehearse, and practice new skills to incorporate them into their daily lives. A parent or guardian may think that by telling their child about personal safety, the child will assimilate that information into a practice of the skills. "I've never known of a child who, when you tell them something one time, you never have to repeat it," stated Nancy A. McBride, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's national safety director. "Children need repetition and reinforcement to acquire new skills, and parents and guardians are in a great position to work with their children in a calm, non-threatening manner."
Another important element for skill acquisition is reassurance. In today's world children are very aware of dangers and tragedies. Because that awareness already exists, it is self-defeating to use fear as a teaching tool, as fear tends to paralyze, not empower. Children who are taught safety concepts are better prepared to handle and protect themselves if self-confidence is part of what they are being taught.2 Communication and active listening are other vital components to success. If parents and guardians approach personal child safety in an open manner, children will be more likely to come to them with problems or concerns in their lives.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has a signature safety publication, Knowing My Rules for Safety that is a good place for parents and guardians to begin teaching personal safety skills. The rules are simple and concise and provide encouragement and options for children who need an adult's help.
Knowing My Four Rules For Safety
- I always CHECK FIRST with my parents, guardians, or other trusted adults before going anywhere, doing anything, helping anyone, accepting anything, getting into a vehicle, or leaving with anyone.
- I TAKE A FRIEND with me when going places or playing outside.
- I TELL someone NO if they try to touch me or do things in ways that make me feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, because it's OK for me to stand up for myself.
- I TELL my parents, guardians, or other trusted adults if anything happens to me.
Sometimes there are people who choose to trick or hurt others. There is no excuse; no one has the right to force, trick, or pressure people into doing things they don't want to do. So use these rules, and remember you are STRONG, are SMART, and have the right to be SAFE. Always
- CHECK FIRST
- TAKE A FRIEND
- TELL PEOPLE "NO" WHEN THEY TRY TO CAUSE YOU HARM
- TELL AN ADULT YOU TRUST IF ANYTHING HAPPENS
Lastly, parental and adult supervision is tantamount to a child's protection and safety. Children cannot be criticized or blamed for making the wrong safety choices if they are not old enough or skilled enough to make those choices. "The responsibility for a young child's safety rests squarely on the trusted adults in that child's life," stated McBride. "Parents and guardians need to do their due diligence and check out adults who have access to their children, and children are never too old for a parent's or trusted adult's supervision." The more involvement a parent takes in his or her child's life, the less likely it is that the child will seek that attention from a less savory and possibly dangerous source. There are no quick fixes or gimmicks that take the place of adult supervision and concern. It's up to all of us to ensure our children's safety and protection.
- 1Guidelines for Programs to Reduce Child Victimization: A Resource for Communities When Choosing a Program to Teach Personal Safety to Children, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1999, page 1.
- 2ibid., page 1.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. © 2008 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. All rights reserved.
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