The Ginger Gent
Stranger – Danger
It is not something I like to think about, but with two little ones it’s becoming more and more necessary to stranger-proof the boys. This can be one of your constant fears as a parent, yet you have to be vigilant not to let that turn you into an anxious helicopter parent. The danger is real of course, but I have never found it helpful to dwell on the coulds and what ifs, as they really can disturb your peace of mind and keep you up at night, and that is no way to live. When I think about it I just get this sudden urge to bubble wrap The Ginger Gent, but he is 8 and more and more he is moving into the world with increased responsibility and independence. So just like G.I. Joe says –knowing is half the battle, and I have a few tips to start the conversation.
When I was afraid of something, my late wife (the cadet she was) said don’t just be scared, do something to prepare for the what ifs. Similarly my house mate’s approach when fear comes up is that fear never goes away if you avoid it. It’s true, if fear is left unchallenged it becomes the elephant in the room and grows just as big. Whether my parental fear is about the splinter that it took us an hour to extract from Ben’s finger, the monsters under his bed (monster spray with lavender works), getting lost on the subway, or being in a dangerous situation, I have to approach all of those issues with him in the same way – head on.
I have been considering the kind of things we can do to be responsible for the safety of our children, especially when we are not around. We have to surrender our children to the care of others – day care providers, teachers, babysitters and neighbours – and that requires faith. So what can we do to make sure we address stranger-danger and emergency situations? It’s necessary as we all know they are out there, and as a parent it makes me sick to think of kids who fall victim to violence and sexual abuse, but let’s be honest, it happens. So what can we do that will make a difference? Well, just like a picture book formula repetition is the key…
Things To Help Your Kids in Risky Situations
Define Speak Secrets and Keep Secrets – if your child is planning on sneaking brownies behind your back chances are they will want to keep that secret. However if something or someone makes your child uncomfortable and tells them its a secret they must understand that that is a speak secret, one that will be met with acceptance and support.
Know Your Body – It’s no time to skip the details, kids need to know about their body and consent. They need to know the proper names of their genitals so they can communicate accurately. And they need to know their body is private and no one should get to touch them without their permission. However, if someone does that there is no shame and blame on their part.
Crack Open the Books – There are lots of great resources out there. For technical stuff try My Body is Private by Linda Walvoord Girard and Rodney Pate, or for a one about consent and secrets, Sam Speaks Out by Linda Sky Grossman and Petra Bockus.
Safety in Numbers – Always have your child travel in groups of two or larger, ask them to check in at houses they are traveling to, and take the same routes.
Whats The Password – Make one up and practice using it a-la-spy! Also practice with another adult to see what your kids have retained!
Don’t Be Tricked – Impress upon them that adults don’t ask for help and bad people don’t look bad so they can run away if approached, and trust their guts to find help.
Get Permission– Don’t let them go anywhere without it! Also accompany kids to places like public washrooms and never leave them alone.
Get the Specs– Keep up to date info on your kids height, weight, blood type and other defining characteristics like scars and birthmarks. Always keep a current photo, update information every six months, and get finger print kits!
In the end, don’t forget to make some aspect of this continual dialogue fun. They are kids after all and really do learn best when they enjoy the process!
About the Author
Kelly Wilk is a freelance writer and single mom to a seven-year-old, red-headed, Irish, Aries boy who is growing up way too fast. Follow them on PinkPlayMags' parenting blog "The Ginger Gent" (www.pinkplaymags.com). Also, find Kelly on her own website and blog, Brave. Creative. Me at www.kellywilk.ca.