The concept of safety for children is not a simple phenomenon and requires several steps to make these lessons effective. It is unrealistic to expect small children or young adults to react perfectly to any danger situation irrespective of how well they have memorized the rules. Our school-going children are daily exposed to so many minute yet uncertain encounters with strangers. We have prepared a list of common safety scenarios that are relevant to Pakistan. It is wise for parents to practice these safety scenarios with kids that can occur commonly to prepare them better for risky situations.
Read More: 8 Important Body Safety Rules for your Child
Scenario 1: Playgrounds/ Play Areas/ Parks
Parents tend to consider play areas or parks as a haven where they can relax while children can play amongst friends and other kids. In various play areas in malls, parents often leave their kids for more than half an hour while staff is responsible for looking after kids. Similarly, playgrounds for cricket, football or any other sports are considered safe for kids as it is often filled with peers of same age and adult coaches or other parents.
However, remember that no one will care for your kid like you do. Child molestation can occur in seconds while kidnapping can occur too without anyone noticing. Even an uncomfortable encounter with strangers can scar your child for years to come. So in the end, it is your responsibility and your child’s preparation for such situations that can prevent any serious incident. Here’s how you should practice for such situation with your child.
- Tell your child its “OK” to be rude when someone is making you uncomfortable.
- Either take them to nearby park or pretend at home that they are playing and act as a stranger who comes to them for help or to give them something to eat. Make your child practice saying No and walking away firmly towards a familiar face or nearby adult.
- Without going into details, verbally ask your child to show how they will react when someone tries to grab them by hand or try to touch their private parts. Teach them to Yell, say No, run away and call for help. All these reactions are very unusual for kids and in real risky situation, they might get extremely nervous or scared. But if they have practiced at home before, they will be less nervous and compose a bit better than an unprepared child.
Scenario 2: Bad Touch by a Stranger or Known Person
Your child should understand the concept of good touch and bad touch beforehand. A report by UN suggests that in more than 80% cases related to child safety and risk, perpetrators are someone they know well. Kids should also understand that under no circumstances any stranger or even person that they know well should make them uncomfortable. These persons may include any house help, van driver, teacher (includes tuition teacher and Quran teacher), school staff, family friends, relatives and older friends. Here is how to practice for these safety scenarios with your kids.
- Tell your child to stay at populated areas in school or functions whether at home or outside.
- Without naming anyone, pretend to be someone else other than a parent and grandparent and offer your child to go to a secluded place, keep it a secret, sit on lap etc. and ask them to respond and refuse in a firm manner.
- If someone finds them in secluded place like restrooms or in room and try to grab them, teach them how to kick, yell, pull away and run. You can grab your kid by wrist or waist to practice this. This is give them firsthand experience of how it can feel to be overwhelmed and how to overcome that.
- If the tutor who is coming home tries to touch the child inappropriately or in any way makes him uncomfortable, the child should ask him to stop immediately and tell the parents.
- Teach them accurate phrases so no one can misinterpret that the child is just misbehaving but actually asking for help. Make them practice these out loud to overcome the fear. Some of the phrases include
Scenario 3: Getting Separated from Parents at crowded places
Again, a very common occurrence is kids getting lost in crowds whether malls, shops, playgrounds or even on streets. It is an absolute nightmare for parents to think what might happen to the child if they are lost and fell prey to malicious strangers. When visiting crowded places, children can get lost or lose way. Always identify places and people that can provide help to children in case they are separated from parents. Some of the key practices include:
- Make your children memorize important phone numbers for parents, grandparents, trusted aunts, uncles as well as local police.
- Tell your children who they can rely on for help. These include shop representatives and sales people, security guards, parents with children or elder ladies with families.
- Make sure to spot safe places in large areas where children should go to as first step instead of looking like a lost child and getting unnecessary attention. Make your children remember these things and keep asking questions what they would do in different scenarios.
- Also prepare them to respond to any stranger’s offer to help them when they are lost. Tell them to respond confidently and go to nearby shops or other safe spots identified.
Prepare questions to mentally rehearse possible scenarios
When dealing with younger kids, it is possible for them to keep forgetting instructions regarding body safety. The numerous instructions given by parents are often confusing the little ones so it is better to reemphasize those concepts in verbal form as well. Try to ask them questions related to body safety at random times to reinforce the concept and help kids be mentally prepared for possible safety scenarios.
Some of the questions you can ask include:
- “What would you do if someone touches your …. (Name of any private part)?
- “Do you think you should tell someone?”
- “Who will you tell?”
- “What should you do if the person threatens to hurt you or your family in case you tell anyone?”
- “Do you think you should still tell someone from your safety circle?”
- “What do you think you would do if someone you know shows you his/her private parts?”
Key Points to consider
While practicing safety scenarios with your child, there are few key points that should be kept in mind:
- Develop habit of talking and sharing with your child. Whether he/she is more comfortable with mother or father, there should be someone they can rely on.
- Don’t go for detailed stories when discussing body safety or abuse.
- Don’t demonstrate in details or physically what bad touch or good touch is.
- Be sure to explain what safe secrets and unsafe secrets are. For instance, birthday surprises are safe secrets but anyone touching private parts even for medical purpose is not safe secret. In fact, anything that bothers them or breaks body safety rules is not a secret
- Try to keep their emotional safety intact. Telling a child that abusers can be someone they love can have a negative impact on their confidence. Instead tell your children that sometimes people they care about have big problems which makes them do bad things. If they hurt them or make them uncomfortable, they should immediately inform the elders so the person child cares about can be healed.