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Talking To Your Kids About Safety

Educating your kids about realistic dangers that they’re likely to encounter shouldn’t be an ordeal. In fact, with my parents, it was always a game. Even if your child isn’t the victim of a violent crime, they’re likely to see it on television, know a victim, or otherwise encounter violence. How you deal with the topic of violence is of vital importance, especially with younger, more impressionable children. When I was a kid, my parents always made sure to proactively discuss things that kids deemed “scary.”—not because they wanted to give me nightmares or scare me into compliance (old school British nannies everywhere), but because we were living in the big city, and they didn’t want to take any chances.

If we were taking the subway to school, the game would be to pick someone in our car that I would ask for help if something happened to my parents. Try it with your kids! They might start with less than reliable criteria (“That man looks like Uncle Leo!”), but if you play a few times and discuss why some people might be better choices than others, kids get the hang of picking people who are statistically less likely to harm them—a middle aged mom with her kids versus a twenty-two-year-old male who looks familiar. It also teaches your children not to panic. If something happens to you or your spouse, your child knows to ask for help (and who to ask), rather than being paralyzed by fear.

For those who live in rural areas, these training games will be a little different. If you live in an isolated house, does your child know where the closest residence or business is? Is there a (safe) shortcut? How long does it take your child to get there? Would it be faster to call someone and wait for them to arrive?

Prepare for Disasters

Both rural and urban families who choose to live off the grid should take an afternoon to (calmly) make “In the Event Of” plans and kits. If there was a hurricane and your family was separated, where would you meet up? When we lived in southern Louisiana, this was always something that we had planned out. The type of natural disaster or emergency that you’ll want to prepare for will vary, of course, depending on your location. Whether you’re preparing for tornados or hurricanes, saying something along the lines of “it’s unlikely that this will happen, but in case it does, we want to be prepared,” will assure your child that nothing abnormal is happening, and that you’re simply taking normal precautions. It’s always more beneficial to have a plan and proceed calmly after a natural disaster or violent attack, and it’s important that you start teaching those skills now- they won’t be calm under pressure if you don’t set that example.

Trust Their Instincts

One of the most important things that you can teach your kids is to trust their own instincts. As someone who chooses to live off the grid, you’re more than aware that you don’t need to rely on someone else. There are always indicators of violence before it occurs, and we’re all equipped with the skills to evaluate risk—even kids. The important thing to remember is that giving into panic is not listening to your instincts. When you’re in real danger, your subconscious processes information a lot faster than your conscious mind does. If your body “suddenly” tells you to run, hide, scream, or attempt to calm a violent actor down, listen to that instinct.  Pass that knowledge on to your kids! They should have the ability to feel confident in their gut instinct that danger (in one form or another) is approaching and know how to respond.

Don’t sit your kids down and give them a lecture about safety. Talking about safety protocols in the abstract is a lot less likely to sink in when you could give them practical safety lessons. While driving, tell them what you would do in case the car crashed. Remind them that cars are very safe when driven properly and then talk about what would happen just in case.

Ways to Influence the Way that Your Kids Interact with Violence

Limit the time that they spend watching television and playing violent games. It’s not just violent games or shows that make kids more paranoid about violence; a whole host of regular television shows are likely to spur fear and put your kids in a position where they’re constantly imagining the worst case scenario.

The news is off limits! Whether it’s reading or watching, you should definitely limit how much your children can interact with the news, as so much violence is recorded here. If they do watch the news, watch it with them, and make sure you’re answering any questions they have about what happened.

It’s okay for your children to hear about a kid getting kidnapped and become upset. One of Gavin de Becker’s most profound pieces of advice is that if you’re scared that something’s going to happen, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not happening. If it was, you wouldn’t have time to be so worried about it! Don’t spend time being worried or upset—you’ll have plenty of time for that if something bad does happen.

The most important thing to remember when you’re communicating with your children about violence and violent events is that it’s 100 percent okay to be frightened, but it’s not okay to let that fear overwhelm their everyday lives. Making an effort to include your children in your everyday decision making is the easiest way to make sure they’re mentally prepared in the case of a violent event in their own lives. You can’t entirely insulate them from the shock of violence, but the way that you talk to your sons or daughters about violence now often determines the way that your children will respond when they encounter these situations themselves later in life. The biggest gift you can give your children is the gift of listening to their own instincts, which are, after all, far more precise than we think.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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