Talking to Kids about Safety and Self-Defense

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Talking to Kids about Safety and Self-Defense

I’ll start by saying I’m not a parent, and I can’t imagine the joy and fear that comes with raising a child in this world. However I am a proud uncle and godfather, so I do get to observe the challenges of parenting up close and often. It’s almost magical: children absorb information like sponges, and are incredible in their ability to find inventive ways to use it. I can’t help but wonder at it all..

Teaching your kids about safety is absolutely crucial and some of the most important lessons you’ll ever pass along.

But what kind of guidance should we be giving our little ones about safety in a constantly evolving world?

How can we do it without frightening them unduly?

I will not claim to have all the answers, but this is the best information I’ve found.

First, start early.

It’s easy to incorporate basic safety messages into childhood activities. There are some great children’s books and games to that end, some of which are available for free online. Something as simple as teaching your child your name, telephone number, and home address can be a big help in an emergency.

Your children need to learn about a whole host of safety related issues, like where the fire extinguisher is, what a smoke alarm does, and what to do in case of a fire or other home emergency. Having a family emergency plan and practicing it can help your offspring understand what they’re doing and why it’s important. While we’re on the subject, teaching your kids how to contact emergency services is a critical part of this. Make sure they know how.

First aid training is a vital skill for everyone, and helping your child acquire it early is an important step. The American Red Cross is an amazing resource toward that end, so getting in touch with your local branch is a good first step.

As our children get a bit older, telephone and online safety become increasingly important. Mobile devices and the internet are powerful tools, and like all such tools they need to be used properly. Monitoring your children’s usage, teaching them how to stay safe and anonymous online, and utilizing appropriate monitoring and blocking software are all parts of the process.

Physical self-defense and small children is a touchy subject and bound to evoke a strong response from anyone. I can’t tell you what to do in any definitive way, but it’s something that you and your child need to discuss. Certainly every child should learn that their body is theirs, that no one has a right to touch them inappropriately, and that they can and should tell a trusted adult if something bad happens. Teaching your child when and how to fight back is more complicated, and folks with more expertise than I have written about it at length. Take a look, think it through, and make the right choice for your family.

I think the most important things are to be honest with your children about the world in which we live and build trust with them and support them as they learn. I’d also like to hear from experienced parents, so please get in touch or share your stories in the comments. Thank you.