Learn How to Protect Your Children, Feel Safe, and Stop Worrying

February 26, 2009

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With 5 kids, you better believe I’ve spent time worrying about how to keep my kids safe.  Plus, I have a 4th degree black belt, so I my kids should learn to foil kidnappers with perfect groin shots.  Hardly realistic, I knew, so I ended up like most of you:

  • I told my children, “Don’t talk to strangers”
  • I tried to ignore media stories about kidnapped kids.
  • I had one or two of those ‘fun’ discussions about what constitutes a ‘private part’ with instructions to come right away and tell me if anyone tried to touch them.
  • I basically knew I needed to teach my kids effective techniques to stay safe, but wasn’t sure how.  (Other than the groin kicks – I had those down 🙂

A few years back I found some much better advice by reading Gavin De Becker’s book, Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers SafeGavin De Becker is a man with a lot of personal experience with threats and violence coming from a very difficult childhood.  But, he turned that into a skill and is now a well-known expert in teaching others how to recognize specific danger signs that precede real threats.

Here are a few things I thought were very valuable in the book:

  • “Don’t talk to strangers” makes a lost kid afraid to talk to anyone, perfect bait for any bad guys around.  Instead?  Tell your child to walk up to a woman who looks like a mommy and say, “I’m lost.  Can you help me find my mommy?”  Since 90-something percent of perpetrators against children are men, just by choosing a woman, the odds of staying safe are upped considerably.  And by choosing a ‘mommy’ your child is likely to get quick help in finding you again.
  • “Violence almost always has detectable pre-incident indicators that we recognize intuitively.” (pg. 6)  Learn the 7 Survival Signals.  Learning to recognize these danger signs decreases my and my kids’ worry and fear.  I learn what to look for.  I teach it to my kids, and we are both more confident and safe.  
  • The test of 12 things your children should know to be assertive and not a victim, including that it’s ok to rebuff and defy adults if they feel afraid. 
  • Five “Signals of Denial” when we’re afraid to even think about specific dangers and instead spend all our time worrying and afraid.
  • Reassure yourself by remembering child abductions are covered intensely in the news and there are a lot fewer than it seems.
  • On the other hand, be eagle-eyed for any signs of child sexual abuse even and especially among family, friends, and other acquaintances.  Don’t dismiss anything your child mentions and work to make sure they are comfortable talking to you about it, even if it is a close relation or friend.  It is the opposite = very underreported and very common (90% of perpetrators are known to the child, almost always heterosexual males and the most common age abuse begins is 3!) .
  • I loved the clear and concise list to teach kids what is inappropriate behaviour they would need to tell you about right away.  (Instead of vague conversations about ‘IT’)
  • How to keep kids safe with babysitters, at school, with friends, when they are teenagers, etc., etc. 

I can’t recommend this book enough to parents everywhere.  Not only is it stuffed with great information, there are example stories all through the book which make it an engaging read.

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