At MOPS, we address a lot of different topics. Often they are lighthearted (organizing our homes, laughing more, etc.) or relational (How to Date Your Spouse, friendship, etc.) And sometime we tackle very serious subjects, like this week.
This week Marie Nelson spoke to us about keeping our kids safe. Marie didn't want to focus the fear that often comes with this subject. Instead she said, "the heart of keeping our kids safe is not letting fear rule us but teaching, training and trust."
Our first job in keeping our kids safe, is learning to trust ourselves. Next, we need to dedicate ourselves to helping our children learn to trust their own instincts. How to be safe is something children learn over time. This is chiefly achieved through modeling safe behavior and age appropriate verbalization of our behaviors so they understand our behavior. Marie gave the example of crossing the street.
When we cross the street with our very small children, we carry them. As they get older, they walk and we hold their hand. In both these situations, we are in charge of when we cross the street. We are responsible to model safe street crossing behavior by looking left, right, left again. We explain to our children that we look left, right, left again and make sure no cars are coming before we cross the street. We do this over and over and over again. Next, while still holding our children's hands, we ask them. "Is it safe to cross the street?" Here, in this safe environment, we are looking to see if they understand.
Eventually they do and one day we will let their hands go and let them cross the street on their own. Learning safety is a process. A process of trusting ourselves and passing that down to the next generation. We are equipping them with the knowledge that they are capable.
Preemptive Knowledge to Use in Unsafe SituationsMany safety issues are not as everyday as crossing the street - such as getting separated from a parent. To train for those moments, she suggested teaching them four key thing.
- Who is a safe person to ask for help from - a mother with children or a store employee behind a cash register
- Their proper full name
- Your or your spouses phone number
- Their home address
We can make learning these four things more fun by turning the learning process into a game. When you are shopping with your children, make the question "who is the closest safe person to get help from?" part of the conversation. Point out the safe people as you enter stores. Get a toy phone to let them practice calling you. We want these four key pieces of information to be part of our children's everyday life so they know them in an emergency.
If Something Bad Happens
Unfortunately we live in a world where bad things do happen. What we do in the moment we learn about an unsafe situation matters. If your child tells you about an encounter with an unsafe person, Marie said try your best to stay calm and do these four things.
- Thank them for telling you.
- Believe them.
- Ask for details about the person and the incident.
- Tell them they are safe.
Five Rules to Know Before 5
Marie also gave us 5 rules that our children should learn between the ages of 2-5.
- I am the boss of my body.
I have the right to say no if no if I don't like how my body is being treated. I don't have to hug, kiss or be touched if I don't want to.
- Everybody's bathing suit areas are private.
No one touches mine and I don't touch anyone else's. no bathing suit games allowed. Private parts are covered by a bathing suit and kept out of view. We do not look, touch, or play games with private parts.
- I don't keep secrets from my parents.
No one should tell a child to keep a secret from their parents, especially one that involves their body.
- Use correct body part names.
They are not funny, or weird. Everyone has them.
- I know five people I can talk to if I ever feel sad, scared or nervous - especially about body safety.
If anyone breaks the rules I tell someone. I won't be in trouble.
These rules should be abided by all the people in your children's life. Your child should also understand that if someone asks them to break these rules, they are not a safe person and your child should seek and tell a safe person immediately.
Marie closed by reminding us that that even though it is hard after a discussion like this, we need to focus on the good and point our children towards to good. It is vital for us to remember that we are victors of God's dream and not victims of Satan's scheme.
Here are two more questions for you to consider as you think about ways to keep your kids safe.
- What kinds of safety plans have you implemented with your family? (when to call 911, what to do if there is a stranger at the door, etc.)
- Do your children know what to do if mommy is hurt or isn't waking up? How do you talk about or practice this scenario?