This is the second part of a series on how to defend yourself and your family. In the first article  we focused on how to protect your younger children – around 10 and under. Now we are going to focus on how to protect your “pre-teen”.
Isn’t it amazing how the term “pre-teen” has just exploded recently? It never seemed to be used like it is this day and age. It is almost like the “pre-teen” is the new teen – God help us! My wife and I have a “pre-teen” now – our oldest son is nearly 12. Although we have homeschooled him for the past 6.5 years and we know that he is probably more sheltered than most 11 year olds, he is still continually trying to spread his wings and do things that we are not always quite so comfortable with.
Our first piece of advice is that when your child approaches you with a request – if it doesn’t feel right then don’t let them do it. Explain to them that this is out of love for them and because you have an obligation to keep them safe. I know that this is easier said than done, but it will be easier to do this now instead of in a few years.
Some Things to Teach Your Pre-Teen
Pay attention when you see the same person looking at you or you see the same person multiple times – especially in multiple locations. These conversations are not only important at this stage in their life but critical as they continue to grow as well. This teaches them to be aware of their surroundings – something that so many pre-teens and teenagers lack this day and age. It is also critical to teach them to trust their “instincts” in these types of situation. We always tell our son that if something doesn’t feel right, that is because God is trying to protect him and giving him those feelings as a warning in order to keep him safe.
Don’t talk to people you don’t know. This concept continues to build upon the “stranger danger” that you taught them as young children. Just because they are a bit older doesn’t mean that that concept goes completely out the window. There is one thing about being polite and saying hello to someone – after all we don’t to raise our children to be afraid of every little thing. But there is a fine balance to this situation.
Don’t accept anything from someone you don’t know and don’t ever go with a stranger. This may seem obvious as well, but you wouldn’t believe how many times a child is lured away because a perpetrator offers them something or promises them something if they go with them. Perpetrators are not dumb. This is something that they study and even share information with other perpetrators about—the things that work and the strategies that don’t work. I know this is a very scary thing to think about but again, this is the world that we live in. This is a reality that we must face if we plan on keeping our families safe.
Keep the people you are with in sight at all times. We do not feel it is age appropriate for our son to go places by himself yet. He desperately wants to go to the library by himself because he thinks it is the “cool” thing to do, but we just don’t feel it is safe just yet. We do let him go to certain places if he has a friend or a group of friends with him. However, we constantly tell him to stick with his friend(s) at all times and not to wander off alone or let his friends take off without him. If this were to happen, we tell him to get in touch with us as soon as possible.
Don’t go to the bathroom alone. This is a hard concept especially for the boys. Girls just seem to naturally gravitate to the bathroom together but for boys – they are far more independent. We have tried not to make a huge deal about this with our son, as we don’t want to give the kid a complex. So we just say we will wait outside the restroom for him. Then I can check on him if needed. I can also monitor who goes in and out of the bathroom as well.
Always tell someone what you are doing or where you are going. This is a critical tip that all parents need to teach from a very young age. If they get into this habit early on, then it will just be habit for them when they get to be a teenager. Communication will be a parent’s best friend. Through the teen years teach this early and practice this often with your younger children.
As I explained in my previous article, there are definitely some things that need to be taught to your children from an early age in the event that someone does try to abduct them or harm them in any way. If they are grabbed you need to tell them to make as much noise as possible. You need to explain that their number one goal is to draw as much attention to the situation as they can. They can also kick, scream, and even bite. As was mentioned in the previous article, teach your child to grab hold of something – whatever is available – wrap their arms and legs around it, and don’t let go. If there is nothing available, they need to grab hold of the perpetrator’s leg and they need to scream, “I don’t know this person”.
Once again, the perpetrator wants to grab the child as quickly and quietly as possible. Anything your child can do to spoil that plan will increase the likelihood that they will escape the situation.
My wife and I know how hard it is as parents to teach our children of all the evils that our world now faces. We desperately wish that we did not have to do this, but these conversations with our children are important. These lessons and tips may be the very tools that save their lives one day.