1. Set ground rules and boundaries. Your kids need to know what you expect. By setting clear boundaries with them, you kids will learn to set boundaries with others. Establish rules.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. You do not have to be an expert to talk about safety, abduction and other difficult topics with your kids. You can start by asking them what they know and what they think about any of these subjects. Encourage discussion. Empower them with knowledge.
3. Don’t be surprised if kids know much more than you thought they did. Kids are barraged with information from all directions. Sometimes I think it’s in the air – they seem to know about it before we say a word. We think we are protecting them by not talking about difficult subjects, but later we find out they knew all about it and never had the opportunity to process their thoughts about a scary subject.
4. Know yourself. Attitudes and opinions have their place, but don’t forget, your kids pick up on those attitudes and attitudes become behaviors.
5. Age appropriate information! Keep it simple. A five-year-old is different from a 12-year-old. And 18-year-olds may think they know everything, but in reality they still need more time to grow. Some kids may seem to be very smart, but give them information that’s right for their age.
6. Practice. Practice. Practice. You can lecture and threaten and make them promise, but the fact is kids might sometimes make a bad choice. Maybe they are just being polite, maybe they have difficulty assessing a situation, but often kids will get into a car when they shouldn’t or go with someone they don’t know. Repeated practice is a great way to teach.
7. Teach awareness. Glance up and look around you. Teach kids to make a note of what’s going on! Teach them to be smart, wise and pay attention to their surroundings. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Practice powers of observation with your kids. Quiz each other. Ask them what you had for breakfast yesterday. What was your child wearing this morning? With younger kids play “I Spy” and draw pictures of what being alert might look like while you talk about it. Practice being alert!
8. Create a safe list. Involve your children in creating a list of trusted friends and family members and their contact information. These are people who they can count on.
9. Speak up. YOU can make a difference. Teach your kids to speak up if someone is doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable, from online bullying, harassment of any kind, inappropriate comments and touching them in a way they don’t like. Your child’s voice is important! If a friend is being harassed, or if they are worried about someone they know – teach them to speak up! They can make a difference.
10. Love = strength. Show your kids you love them. Tell them often. Create an environment where love gives them power and strength.