Arming Children Against Predators

Arming Children Against Predators
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 31-03-2023

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A hard reality facing parents in today’s day and age is the safety of their children. There is growing concern about the increasing number of incidents of child abuse. Given the number of ways children become vulnerable to such occurrences, it is extremely important to educate them -about various areas. For example:

  • What is a good touch and bad touch?
  • Stranger danger and more
  • Providing them with resources for help

Good touch v/s Bad touch

An important step in arming children against potential dangers is by talking to them about physical attributes such as touch. A child can be explained the difference between what constitutes acceptable and non-acceptable gestures from family members, friends, teachers, etc. Not only is this exercise beneficial in preparing them to be more alert, but also in voicing out their concerns if they feel any danger.

The following features can help describe “good” touch:

  • Affection from close ones like parents, grandparents, or relatives makes them feel safe and warm.
  • Such gestures should never surround private parts. They generally involve touch on areas such as shoulders, hands, head, face, etc.
  • But, also let your child know that if they feel any discomfort when touched in these areas by someone, they must report it to you immediately.

Important information regarding “bad” touch can include the following:

  • Watching out for touching or attempts to touch private parts. Use language such as “area of your underwear”, and “areas that are covered at all times”, to make it more clear to children what you mean by private.
  • Watching out for repeated insistence on physical affection.
  • Watching out for requests for spending time alone from other adults and children.
  • Reporting any sort of discomfort felt with someone.

Insist on letting your child know that they will not be scolded or ignored if they happen to report any such incident which made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. More importantly, use the correct names of body parts with them while you educate them about such a phenomenon. This helps in making things clearer for the child in case they want to share something with their parents. It further allows them to understand the importance of privacy of body areas and no one being allowed to touch them in those areas without their permission (not even their parents).

Stranger Danger and More

Yes, being aware of strangers around them is highly beneficial for your children in ways such as:

  • Explaining to them the importance of not engaging with strangers in cases where they are alone or if their parents or trusted ones are not around them.
  • Setting strict rules about declining offers from strangers in person or on social media to eat something or try an activity or go somewhere alone with them.

However, talking about people other than strangers is equally important. Experts have pointed out that most incidents related to child abuse happen in familiar places and are committed by adults known to the child.  Therefore, provide additional information to your children. When explaining steps for their safety use words like “anybody” and not just “strangers”.

Additional Resources

Additional steps to ensure your child’s safety include:

  • Listening to their most minute observations or feelings related to any form of discomfort.
  • Make sure you know who your child is with. Avoid trusting people blindly!
  • Making them memorize or giving them written contact information. This includes your address, phone number, email, etc. This is useful in any emergency they may face.
  • Tell your children to yell or shout if they find themselves in an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation. Suggest using exact names like calling out “Person X is trying to lock the door” or “Person Y tried to touch me”.  
  • Let them know that being safe is more important than being polite. If your child doesn’t want to hug or kiss someone, they should not be forced.

Parenting is a challenging task by any means. However, keeping open communication with your children at all times can definitely make things easier for them and you.

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