When my wife and I had children our lives changed drastically as we knew it. We knew it would to some degree but I had no idea how much so until I held my baby in my arms for the first time. God had given us this child to love and protect and I had this sheer desire to keep my child safe no matter what.
Now fast forward nearly 12 years later – my wife and I now have 4 children – ages 11, 5, 3, and 10 months and keeping them all safe has become more difficult than it once was when we just had our first child. As they are now starting to become more active through their sports and other activities, my wife and I definitely feel a strain to ensure their safety every minute of every day.
I remember a time not so long ago when people felt safe letting their children go out to play unattended—even letting them ride their bikes around town—but those days are now gone. We have to constantly be aware of all the situations around us, and unfortunately we also have to teach our children such things as well.
It is difficult to teach young ones that there are evils out there in the world. It is also difficult to know when it is age-appropriate to teach them about such things. But in the world that we live in today it is necessary to lay the foundation with young children in order to keep them safe. There are several things you can do as a parent, as well as with your children, to help keep them safe.
Safety Tips for Parents of Young Children
When I became a parent, I noticed that I suddenly had this heightened sense of awareness of unsafe areas when my children were around. Certain parks drove me crazy with all of the trees and bushes that people could use for cover or … you know how it goes. One minute your child is swinging and all of a sudden you can’t find them. They’ve simply stepped behind a tree for a second and your heart sinks as your frantically start to search for them only to find them tucked behind a tree looking at a bug.
When you are at a park, try to position yourself where you can see the parking lot (any entrances or exit locations) as well as the playground itself. That way you can keep track of who is arriving and who is leaving.
Another thing you will want to keep track of is where the bathrooms are. The fields where our boys play soccer have a very poor design. It is a parent’s worst nightmare. The bathrooms are positioned on the backside of the building where no one can view the entrance. There have been several times where one of our boys has taken off to use the restroom and my wife or I have to go sprinting after them because this is a perpetrator’s dream scenario.
Check your house each and every night. Make sure all doors and windows are locked—especially in your children’s rooms. Don’t take for granted that you didn’t unlock the window or door, therefore, it is still locked. Maybe you had a guest that unlocked it; perhaps your spouse unlocked it and forgot to re-lock it, or even one of your children. Don’t make it easy for a perpetrator to victimize your family.
Safety Tips to Teach Your Children
Again, this is a hard position to be in as a parent. You don’t want to scare the daylights out of your children and give them nightmares, but you need to start teaching them awareness just in case something does happen.
The first thing you want to teach your children is discipline. This may seem like an obvious thing but every time my wife and I go to the store and see people’s kids running around not listening to their parents, we realize that this is still an important concept to remind at least some parents about. We have always tried to do our best to teach our children to mind, but we even had an incident that hit close to home that reinforced this important concept.
We moved to Alaska for a while when our oldest son was around 6 or so. My wife was 7 months pregnant with our second son. We had not been in the state more than a week or so and we were doing some sight-seeing. There was a man that was demonstrating some very bizarre and aggressive behavior about a half a block ahead of us. I immediately became concerned and ushered my wife into the closest store. When I went to pull my son into the store, he pulled his arm away from mine and told me he wasn’t going in the store. Needless to say we had a serious heart to heart after that where we explained the importance of obedience all of the time, but especially in a situation like that.
It is never too early to teach your child “stranger danger.” Our rule in our house is that it is okay to speak to someone when spoken to if mom or dad are present. This is a little easier for our family because we homeschool our children, and so they are almost always with us. Our oldest son now does activities without us being present, but he is old enough to understand the concept of not talking to strangers. However, if your children are in situations where they are with other adults like at a school or daycare, it is imperative that you teach them these concepts.
Another thing that you obviously need to teach them is to not take anything from anyone. This includes toys and candy. You need to remind them to always stay close to the adult they are with. Our rule with our children is that they need to be able to see one of us at all times. Never let you children go to the bathroom alone.
Another thing that we start teaching our children when they hit about 5 or so is that if someone ever does try to take them that they need to scream, bite, and even kick. We teach our children that if there is a pole or something they can grab onto they need to do it, wrapping their arms and legs around it “like a monkey” and not to let go no matter what. We even teach them that if there isn’t something like a pole available that they are to wrap their arms and legs around the perpetrators leg. (Have you ever tried to walk quickly when your child was wrapped around your leg like that? It is nearly impossible.) If a perpetrator tries to take your child, they are going to try to take them as quickly and quietly as they can. If your child can disrupt that from happening, they may decide it isn’t worth it and just leave. The sad fact remains that once they get a child from the initial spot, the statistics drastically decrease for finding the child safe and unharmed. Unfortunately that is the world we live in today.
These are just a few suggestions that we use in our family. We gradually try to teach these things to our children to where they aren’t overwhelmed by introducing them to these concepts when it is age appropriate. We would love to be able to never have to teach our children any of these concepts, but I would rather have them know the information and then never have to use it. The option of having a tragic situation happen that could have been prevented if we would have just given them the tools to protect themselves when we weren’t available to keep them safe ourselves isn’t even one I’m willing to consider.