The issue of child safety is on every parent’s mind right now thanks to a spate of terrible news stories. I know myself that the idea of keeping my kids safe has had me waking up in a cold sweat at 2 am. And I constantly worry that I’m doing all I can to safeguard them.
And despite what experts say, I find it doesn’t help to hear that child abduction cases ‘are rare’. The fact they happen at all terrifies me and most parents I know. So I’ve been eager to find out if I am doing all I can and I’ve found in amongst all the muddled advice, a voice of reason from Suzie Hayman in The Guardian.
The agony aunt and trustee of the parenting advice charity Family Lives says the best way to talk to younger children about any danger is through “What would you do if …?” scenarios: “From an early age, we should be asking them how they would react to a certain situation – say, if they throw a ball into a road, or if a stranger asks them to get into a car. We shouldn’t lecture them about the dangers, rather they should be encouraged to think of the right response first. We should then correct them if they don’t get it right. We want to train them to have the correct instincts when it comes to potential dangers.”
Trying this out on my 5 year old, was interesting. While she knew categorically never to go anywhere with a stranger, her definition of non strangers was revealing. It came down to “anyone we say hello to is not a stranger.”
This was a huge eye opener for me and led to a clear discussion about never going off with anyone without my permission. Not neighbours, not other children’s parents, not nice people with dogs that we say hello to in the park, and not people from school and the supermarket etc.
The clarification has certainly helped to put my mind a little bit more at rest but how about you? Have you been worrying as much as me? If so, what do you say about child safety to your kids? Let me know your thoughts.