Laurie Estes, Ph.D.

Sometimes the world seems like a really unsafe place.  We turn on the news and are bombarded with accounts of tragic crimes, a depressed economy, and problems with international relations.  It’s tough to feel ok about sending our children out into such a harsh landscape.  Parents worry about their
children’s safety. Worries about child abduction, sexual abuse, and physical injury can dominate the thoughts of caring parents.

We can’t keep our children completely safe.  Bad things can happen.  Although there are realistic
concerns, a potential consequence to living under too much fear of bad stuff happening is that our children will “catch” the fear.  We want to protect children, but also have them perceive the world as a wonderful place.  The question then becomes what can we do to keep our kids as safe as possible
without instilling unhealthy fear?  Following are some suggestions for families:

1.  Drop by your child’s daycare/school unannounced from time to time.
2.  Pay attention to what your child says about his/her sitter and how he/she reacts to being dropped off.
3.  Talk to your children about good and bad touch.  Let them know that their body is private.  Inform them what to do if something doesn’t feel right (e.g. tell an adult right away).
4.  Keep anger and fear out of your voice when discussing safety issues with your child.
If your child feels that your reaction will be negative or harsh, he/she won’t
be likely to talk to you if something bad happens.
5.  Have a code word that only your family knows.  Use this word for having someone other than a parent pick up your child up.
6.  Know where your kids are going and who they’re with.  Make sure there are responsible adults present to supervise.
7.  Know who your kid’s friends are.
8.  Look for behavioral red flags.  If you feel that your child could be headed for trouble (poor grades, angry behavior, etc.), get help now rather than wait until things get worse.
9.  Be willing to seek assistance.  If your child seems to be struggling, consult with a professional.
Crime Survivors can be a great resource in making this linkage.

Remember, the best thing you can do to keep your kids safe is to keep calm, open communication and to have good safety practices in place.  We can’t keep kids from trouble or injury all of the time, but we can help reduce the risk.

Recommended readings:
The Gift of Fear
by Gavin DeBecker, Ph.D.
Protecting the Gift by Gavin DeBecker, Ph.D.