This article is designed to help you talk to your children about crime and about strategies designed to help them not become victims of crime.
In today's word, it is often not enough for adults and parents to be vigilant in their protection of children. Now, children themselves must be ready and able to help protect themselves.
Many parents and adults feel uncomfortable about talking to their kids about the crime that goes on everyday. Often times, parents feel that talking about crime could lead their kids to become too fearful of the outside world, but at the same time want their kids to know about the dangers they could face. Finding the correct balance is crucial, and this often will only happen when parents themselves feel comfortable with crime in the world.
Passing on fears and anxieties to children won't help them in the long run to deal with hard situations. Instead of accepting that crime is inevitable, parents should instead show their children that hard work can deter and prevent crime. Parents that join self-defense training classes with their children and also join neighborhood watch programs are often much better able to discuss crime with their children.
If you still feel uncomfortable about talking with your children directly about crime, one of the best steps to take as a parent to protect your child is to build up your child's self-esteem and self-worth. Studies have show that the criminals, such as child molesters, will often target children that do not feel loved, or have low self-esteem or feel abandoned by their parents. Show your child that they are worth fighting for, and they may have a reduced chance of being a victim.
Lastly, when talking to your kids about self-protection training and crime, you should always be clear that the child should exercise their self-protection skills against whomever threatens them. A majority of all child-abduction crimes are perpetrated by someone the child knows or likes. Because of this, it is important to prepare your child to use his or her skills whenever it is necessary.
What follows are some times that you can use to talk to your child about crime and self-protection:
The lessons about crime and self-protection should be ongoing. Learning about different types of crime and where they occur, as well as ways to defend against crime is not something that can be picked up in one or two sittings. Instead, plan on having talks and lessons at least a few times a month, for as long as you have them in the house. Just like almost everything else that is learned, the knowledge and lessons about crime and prevention will fade from memory unless stimulated.
Keep your talks age-appropriate. This is not to say that you shouldn't describe how a crime is committed or what steps could be taken to avoid being a victim of a crime. Instead, this means that you should confine your lessons to words and concepts that the child can comprehend.
Be sure not to teach lessons that are hypocritical. Do not tell your children to do something, and then go and do it yourself. For example, one of the biggest lessons ever told to children is to not talk to strangers. However, this lesson may be for nothing if your kids routinely see you talking to strangers while waiting in line at the bank or grocery store. Instead, try to give your kids lessons and rules that you can follow as well. For example, "don't get in cars with strangers," and "don't take candy from strangers," are probably better lessons that the children can take to heart when they see you putting them in practice.
Remember the golden rule that "you can't listen when your mouth is open." Instead of always talking at your children, be sure that the communication goes two ways. Be open to and welcome questions from your children. If a child is scared about a recent armed robbery, talk to them truthfully about it. If your child thinks that a criminal is loose in the neighborhood, be sure to walk around the house with them and show the child all the security measures that your house has in place (all doors locked, windows locked, security system armedetc).
In addition, always be sure that you fully understand what your child means when they are talking with you. Growing children often do not have full vocabularies and can pick up words without understanding their meanings.
Be aware what your children watch on TV and discuss it with them. Children, especially young children, often have a hard time differentiating between what they see on TV and the real word. Cartoons and other shows often depict avengers brandishing swords and guns to thwart their enemies. Kids often think that this is how real life should be and can wield sticks and fake guns in imitation. Oftentimes, kids find real guns and use them in similar ways with very tragic consequences.
You have a variety of options when it comes to how your children interact with the television. Many TVs are now equipped with parental control chips that you can program so that children can only watch certain, pre-approved shows. In addition, you can also restrict TV time, or take TVs out of the house altogether. However, if your child watches TV and starts to imitate what he or she sees on the screen, you should have a sit down and discuss with your child what they watched. Feelings should be hashed out and you should make it clear that the TV is not real, and the things on TV should, in most cases, not be imitated.
Don't make the police into a threat. Parents, especially those that are tired from a long day at work, often use the police as a threat to keep their kids quite and well behaved. Try not to use threats like, "If you don't stop shouting, I'm going to call the police to take you away!" Although it may be a quick means to get your kids to behave well, it can also have the adverse side effect of teaching your children that the police are the bad guys. Children should always feel that the police are there to protect them in case of emergencies and should not view the police as a punishment.
Children are not angels. You should expect them to break the rules. We were all children at one point and had to abide by our parent's rules. However, we all broke them along the way and usually felt tremendously guilty and ashamed. We would often feel so ashamed that we would never admit to breaking a rule, like when we went biking in the street at night, alone.
Oftentimes, children do not know that the rules are in place for their own protection, not merely as a restriction on their freedom. If your child breaks a rule, they should feel comfortable enough to tell you about it. In order for this comfort to be there, it is important that parents attempt to temper anger about broken safety rules and talk to their children honestly about why the rules are in place. When children know that the rules are there for their own safety, they may feel more comfortable talking to their parents when something bad happens as a result of their breaking those rules.
Martial arts and other self-protection classes have become a popular means for parents to give their kids some self-protection skills. However, this is probably not enough. Parents should encourage children to trust their own instincts when dangerous situations appear. For example, parents should encourage children to run away from strangers that seem like they mean harm. Getting away and out of a situation can prevent a child from becoming a statistic. This lesson ties back into another lesson that was mentioned above giving children a strong sense of self-worth. The more a child trusts his or her own instincts, the more likely it is that they will follow them instead of waiting around, wondering if they are right or not.
One of the hardest parts for parents in teaching their children self-protection skills is acknowledging that they will not always be around to protect their children. This realization is often as hard, if not harder, on the parent that it is on the child. However, to make it easier on the child, it is important to give them motivation to learn to protect themselves. This could mean that, instead of telling them to take the self-protection class so that they have skills when you are not around, tell the children that class is an aid for them to help protect the family. Empower your children and show them stories about how kids their own age helped prevent a crime from happening by calling 9-1-1 or yelling and running away.
Although classes like karate and jujitsu are great for building self-confidence and protection skills in children, many argue that these classes give kids a false sense of security and even the idea that they can combat a much larger adult. However, most martial arts and self-defense classes always teach that fighting is almost always the last resort, and that the children should always try to remove themselves from dangerous situations instead of becoming involved in a struggle. You, as the parent, can reinforce this lesson by always teaching your child to run for help instead of struggling, and only fighting back as a last resort.
The Child Assault Prevention Training Center, as well as various other self-defense and martial arts programs, teach their students the No! Go! Yell! Tell! system.
No! If a stranger approaches a child, teach them to keep a safe distance away from the person. Teach them that they have a zone of comfort that is all their own. If a stranger or another person invades that space in a threatening manner, the child should step back and shout "NO!" as loudly as possible.
Go! If the "NO!" did not change the situation in favor of the child, the child should be instructed to turn and walk/run as quickly as possible to a safe destination. It is helpful for children to know safe spots to run to, such as the house of a Block Parent, a school, a restaurant or a gas station.
Yell! This yell should not be a scream or a high-pitched screech, instead it should be a loud and forceful yell. If your child can form a word with the yell, like "STRANGER!", all the better, but making a loud, forceful sound should be the ultimate goal. This is discussed in more detail below.
Tell! Once the child gets to a safe area, instruct the child that they should tell a parent, adult, teacher or other trusted person about what happened. Telling should be very stressed, and the child should be made aware that they should tell even if a person tells them not to. Assure the child that they are loved and that no matter what happened to them, they will not be blamed.
The Yell is perhaps one the most important step in the No! Go! Yell! Tell! system. Parents should stress that the yell should not be used when playing, and that it is a special call that is only used in emergencies and dangerous situations. The yell should be:
The Yell is a very useful tool that can be used to deter attackers as well as bring help. Attackers and other criminals often become frightened by yells and will just drop the crime. In addition, yells will draw the attention of those around you, bringing wanted help in time.
Lastly, the Yell can act as a battle cry to get you going. Battle cries were not only tools that soldiers used to sound their entrance into a battle, but were also used to throw off fear and get their feet moving. By yelling, you are filling your body with oxygen and getting the adrenaline pumping through your body, thereby allowing you to overcome your fear and start running. Many martial arts use forms of yelling (called "Kiai") to do the same thing, getting blood oxygenated and focusing the mind.
Perhaps the most basic of all the safety skills is to make sure that children know where they can go to get help when they need it. Small children are routinely taught in school how to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1 in case of emergencies, but you can teach your children more.
Phone Calls Perhaps one of the easiest ways to teach children to get help is to enable them to make phone calls when they need to. Be sure that there is at least one phone within your home that your child can reach easily (without the need of a stool) and that there is a list with important phone numbers beside it. This list should include the numbers to:
Children should be able to use the phone at a young age, perhaps 5 or 6. By this time, they should know their own phone number and street address. In addition, children should be encouraged to learn the numbers of their parent's cell phones and work numbers. Be sure that the phone that is accessible to your child has large digits that are easy to press in case of an emergency.
Whether or not you decide to give your child a mobile phone, make sure that they know how to use one in case they ever need to report or get out of a dangerous situation.
If your child has to call 9-1-1, the emergency dispatcher will probably ask your child a series of questions. Be sure that you child can answer these questions by practicing with them. These questions will probably include:
One of the most important things for the dispatcher is that the child remains on the line until the dispatcher says it is okay to hang up, or until help arrives. In either case, be sure to teach your child not to hang up the phone unless the dispatcher says "goodbye" or help arrives.
Help from the neighborhood. If your neighborhood already has a neighborhood watch system in place, then there may already be a designated safe house that children should go to in case of an emergency. If not, you should get in touch with your neighbors and make a plan and agree upon a safe house or location that children should go to in case of a threat or crime.