“Mom, I just want to ride my bike around the block to visit Anna,” says 9 year old Sarah. Thirty years ago Sarah could ride the bus or ride around the block and parents would not worry. Unfortunately, parents have always had many reasons to worry about the safety of their children. Today, there is a perception that the world has become a more dangerous place to live than it was in past generations. However, the reality is that we have just become more aware of the dangers through media and internet sources and public education. In the past, we didn’t talk openly about sexual abuse, discrimination, or bullying because it was kept a secret or we just accepted these things as part of life. Today these are common topics of discussion and public education making us more aware of the dangers that threaten our children.
Parents can do three things to decrease the overwhelming fear of not being able to protect their child.
1. Acceptance: Parents must accept the fact that they can’t protect their children all the time. Even if they were with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – they would not be able to control all the bad things that may happen.
2. Access Your Parental Fears: Parents have always feared for the safety of their children, but they must be careful to assess whether their fears are based in anxiety or based on an imminent threat to their child’s safety.
3. Talk to Your Children: After you accept the fact that you cannot shield them from all danger and you have assessed whether your fears are real or imagined, start talking to your children about safety and developing safety plans with them for possible unsafe situations that may arise.
Start talking to your child about safety as soon as possible and ask them questions like, “What do you think about this?” “What would be a good plan in this situation to be safe?” “What are you afraid of that may happen?” Asking questions like these encourages your child to use critical thinking to build safety awareness, problem solving skills, and relational skills.
Remember, being prepared for and able to assess danger is the best defense against it and parents can protect their children by helping them develop safety plans before they are in an unsafe situation.
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Article Written by Crystal Hollenbeck