Our Parental Preps column offers tips for family prepping, as well as...
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Give them the tools to help them prevent bullying. A bully’s main target is a child who they perceive as vulnerable. Keep your child safe from being a target by helping them to achieve and maintain a high self-esteem and solid relationships at home and with their peers. In the event that your child is a victim of a bully, role-play with them how they can protect themselves, be assertive, and, if necessary, alert the school officials. A child needs to understand that there’s no shame in walking away from a hostile situation or asking an adult for help.
Help them to adopt safe behaviors online. Engaging in open conversation with your child is a great way to teach them the importance of online safety. Not only is it important to verbalize this with them, but you must also give them real-world scenarios they can mentally file. This involves role-playing scenarios that they could encounter online. Afterward, discuss how the situation should be approached and why. Talk about how they should manage a situation where a stranger attempts to engage them in conversation online. Also guide them in how much information they should be revealing about themselves online in general and the dangers of revealing too much.
Teach your child about using public transportation, safely. For their first experience using public transportation, you should travel with them and stay near your child, but allow them to travel alone — for example, your child would pay for their bus ticket and sit alone, but mom or dad would sit nearby. This way you can keep a close eye on your child and intervene should assistance be needed. The next experience could involve them traveling with a friend. Be sure to engage in many role-plays for this situation as well. Discuss what they could do in certain “emergency” situations if they’re using public transportation. For instance, what should they do if they become separated from a friend with whom they’re traveling? What if they lose their cell phone? What if someone tries to rob them? The role-plays will help them be prepared for the worst circumstances.
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Passwords: Having a password is a great idea for your kids. If someone comes up to them and says something to the effect of “Your mom told me to pick you up and take you to her,” your child will respond with “what’s the password?” If the unknown person does not know the password, you should instruct your child to run away, tell a trusted adult, and/or make a scene to attract attention.
Attempted abduction: Often, when kids are put in a situation where they’re not sure what to do, they posture or freeze. This is a critical aspect of attempted abductions. One way to help kids mitigate attempted abductions is to instruct them to yell, scream, bite, and scratch the abductor. This will cause a scene and hopefully elicit an intervention. Another way to mitigate abductions is to always know where and who your child is with. We don’t let our child go to any one’s house unless we (the parents) have a close relationship with the parents and have a full understanding of the situation. Accidents happen, and it’s essential to know these details in case something goes wrong.
Traveling: While being a helicopter parent can be safer, we must also teach kids to be independent rather than sheltering them excessively. There are times when they’ll be completely out of our control. An example would be field trips, business trips, and babysitting. Teaching your children to look out for and take care of each other is crucial. Even small children can identify something normal and abnormal. They may not be able to articulate why, but they have a great “spidey sense” built in. We can teach them the principles behind the color codes and OODA loop (observe-orient-decide-act) and remind them to have their head on a swivel. You can also make this a fun game. My son and I used to play “head on a swivel” when we were driving to and from the grocery store, school, or church. I would randomly say, “head on a swivel!” and my son would assess his environment and tell me everything he saw. This is a great tool use to get them in the habit of taking a periodic assessment of their surroundings.