Media stories about abducted, abused or molested children are terrifying to every parent. We all want our children to be safe, but many of us also want our children to have a sense of trust in adults. It's difficult to teach children to be wary and trusting at the same time.
The recent increase in programs and books that teach children to be assertive and to say 'no' to frightening or hurtful adult actions indicates the great concern about helping children protect themselves. But parents and teachers must remain fully aware that teaching assertive skills to children, and encouraging them to tell parents about 'bad behavior' from other adults, is a small part of keeping young children safe.
We must not forget that children are small, weak, and vulnerable when compared to adults. The protection of children is the most central and important task of parents and primary caregivers. Children must not be overburdened with feelings that they alone are responsible for their own safety.
Here are some strategies for keeping children safe:
Parents have always had to establish rules for children's safety and protection. When such rules are presented in a clear, matter-of-fact fashion most children accept them without becoming unduly fearful, particularly when parents indicate that safety is a shared adult-child responsibility. Overemphasis on teaching children assertive skills, or to distinguish between 'bad' and 'good' touch should not lead parents to a false sense of security. Adults must always provide continuous, loving supervision if children are to be safe. We must all continue to stress the importance of neighborliness, support networks, quality child care, after-school programs, and other family-strengthening approaches if our communities are to be truly safe for children.
Source: Jennifer Birckmayer, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, New York State College of Human Ecology, Cornell University. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 32
Last updated July 10, 2020