There is a growing alertness among parents, educators, caring adults and the church about the need to teach kids tangible ways to stay safe. Until children are old enough to keep themselves safe, it is the job of parents and concerned adults to do so. Since you and I can’t always be with children, we are often at the mercy of adults we chose to trust or our child’s ability to navigate situations. For this reason, it is always the right time to be educating our children on concrete, child-appropriate safety skills.
Every child is different. Some are naturally more cautious or distrustful, others are carefree and risk-takers. It is helpful to know your child well and shape your conversations based on what you know they need to hear and learn.
Below are five ways you can begin to train/ educate your children in safety skills.
- Teach kids developmentally appropriate views of sex, sexuality and their bodies. Kids who know correct body parts, God’s view of sex/sexuality (as well as the boundaries in which it is intended), are more likely to be prepared when they see the corruption of such things. Kids need to grown up not looking at these things as shameful or bad, but part of God’s creation and good. The more they have a positive, accurate view of these things, the more likely they are to spot the counterfeit. They will also know to tell someone when it happens.
- Instruct kids to respect their bodies and respect the bodies of others. Respect means you do not touch people in their private parts (and please do not be afraid to be specific) nor should anyone touch them. It means you do not do or say things that makes someone else uncomfortable. We need to give examples, role play and brainstorm all the ways this could play out. Be prepared to give concrete examples. (you do not: hug someone who does not want to be hugged, ask them to remove clothing, make inappropriate comments, show them pictures, video, movies that hurt/offend etc). Language like respect and love show kids what is valuable. We must then demonstrate what it looks like practically. What is respectful/ not respectful? Role Play and let them give examples. What is loving/ not loving – and why? Role play, and talk it through. If we do not talk, role play and brainstorm, they will be caught off guard by another who wants to redefine what love and respect is – and it will likely be a corruption of those terms.
- Train kids to pay attention when something (or someone) does make them uncomfortable. They may feel uncomfortable for lots of reasons: something is confusing to them, it pushes them outside their comfort zone, or they are put it a risky situation and can’t make sense of it. This is a tricky subject because many argue you should never make a child do things that make them uncomfortable – especially when it comes to giving affection. The argument states it makes children more likely to ignore signs of abuse. However, I believe it is a better principle to teach kids to pay attention to what makes them uncomfortable and why. That means teaching them the skill of discernment. This will take practice, role playing and a variety of situations regularly placed before them. It means practice, conversation, and practice. Point out what makes them uncomfortable and talk through the reasons; help them decide what to do with each scenario. It is a great way to get kids to think outside the box and become more discerning.
- Instill the ability to discuss hard topics without fear, shame or embarrassment. In order to teach this, you must model it. Kids watch you to find out if a topic is safe to discuss. You will demonstrate whether it is the most comfortable, natural thing in the world to talk about this topic, or you will demonstrate mom/dad can’t handle it. They will learn no topic is too difficult for you, or they will learn to avoid coming to you with something that is uncomfortable.
- Teach them them the safe people to go when in need and how to share to when something is bothering them. Talk through the people they trust if parents are not available or may be afraid to talk to a parent. Give them access to those individuals, such as making sure the safe adult’s phone number is in your child’s phone. Explain where and who to go to if lost, what to do if in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation, etc.
What are the themes you are hearing? A biblical view of these sensitive topics will help kids know when they are seeing the corruption of it. We want our kids to maintain their innocence while feeling competent to know what to do when in peril.
Proactively disciple and teach your kids to trust the Lord. Cultivate openness about what is going on in their lives and God’s personal engagement. Praise/ encourage them for talking. Brainstorm, role play, practice, and role play again. The more children feel prepared, the less they are confused by situations, the more likely they are to respond well. We do not want to raise fearful kids, but safe kids. We are not instilling worry, we are inspiring confident, equipped children.