What we as 21st century parents have learned fairly quickly is that it is definitely more difficult to raise children in this era compared to when we were growing up. 3 decades ago many parents had an abundance of assistance in raising their children. Extended family members, neighbors, church/community members, friends, and even close family friends. Many people were standing by to lend a helping hand whenever needed. People were readily available and committed, they were geographically closer, retired earlier than many do now- which appears to be due to the economic opportunities at that time- and the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a family’ was truly understood and honored.
Today, our American culture has only made us busier in all aspects. Our jobs are more demanding, and with the availability to do work from home many seem to have difficulty completely ‘signing off’ and ‘signing on’ to their family life. This in turn means parents giving more freedom to children, especially single parents due to time constraints. We as parents don’t want to trouble others by asking them to assist with our children. Yet, at times additional help may be needed in keeping our kids safe. Even simply asking a neighbor to keep an eye on our children as they play outside while we prepare dinner is a huge help. Those people who prey on innocent children have more means to access them now, as we’ve seen lately, and have unfortunately become savvier. So we are forced to be more aggressive with our children’s safety.
In addition, this means that we need to work on preparing our children to take some responsibility for their own safety and well being. We can start this process as young as 6 years of age, even though they will always be with an adult. One small thing you can do is teach them to be aware of their surroundings at all times. For instance, if an older child is walking home from a friend’s house or school (no matter how close) they should always pay attention to who is around them and if they notice strangers lurking about they should turn around or not leave the school or friend’s house, but go back inside and let a teacher or their friend’s parent know. Likewise if they are playing outside it is a good idea to be sure their sibling or other friends are playing as well. This gives power to the old adage “safety in numbers”. Today it is recommended that children stay in 3’s.
Teach emergency information for ‘just in case’ situations. If they are outside playing and a stranger approaches them they should move quickly towards home or the nearest neighbors house preferably, and if they are pursued they need to scream as loud as they can making sure to scream “no” and “help” while running away. Try placing a loud horn on your children’s bikes or scooters just in case and provide specific boundaries which are near to your house and others they know. Enrolling your child in Karate is an option or simply go over a few situations and moves with them in case they ever need to execute this. Children should also know how to spot a suspicious or unrecognizable person and report it immediately. Teach them the psychology behind predators. For example, strangers who look very friendly tend to approach kids gently and politely and ask for help, directions, or start small talk while offering treats. They may not appear threatening however that is not always the case. The objective is not to scare your child but to simply make them aware while being confident to move around their community or other areas. We as parents must also be constantly involved in the whereabouts of our children and who they are with at all times of day.
Contact the Poly Klaas Foundation for more information and a free Safety Kit.