It’s important to recognize that ignorance is not bliss – knowledge is a gift. Here’s how to protect kids from danger by giving them that gift – in age-appropriate ways.
Between my husband’s experiences in law enforcement and my passion for true crime documentaries, I occasionally have full-on panic attacks about my children’s safety.
There are some things that I truly benefit from knowing, like the fact that the “scary stranger” is actually the least likely person to hurt my kids. It means, for better or worse, I can keep my eyes focused on the potential threats closer to home.
That’s not to say I’m crazy paranoid about everyone they interact with – just healthily aware.
But it’s not even people in real life who pose a threat. There’s also the threat of internet predators and pornography (which kids are exposed to for the first time WAY younger than you would expect).
There are so many things for a parent to be anxious about when it comes to keeping your kids safe, no doubt about it. What can you do to combat all these realities?
Ignorance Is Not Bliss: How To Protect Kids In a Scary World
Build your relationship with your kids.
Kids who feel close to their parents are less likely to take dangerous risks or to be sought out by predators. They’re less likely to make bad decisions, and they’re more likely to tell you about things so you’ll have a nice way to have them let you know if something’s wrong.
Plus, you’ll be more in tune with them if something goes wrong. You’ll be more familiar with their baseline than you might be if you have less of a relationship.
Best of all, it makes it so you don’t have to feel like you need to snoop or anything.
The parenting book that has most significantly impacted my relationship with my kids is Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (as well as everything by Dr. Laura Markham). It’s made a huge difference in how I relate to them – I understand them a lot better, and it’s made me more peaceful in dealing with them.
I’m not perfect – I still get frustrated, I still yell, but I’m making progress.
Talk openly about everything – even the tough stuff.
We heard a story in church a few years ago about kids who went to their grandparent’s house. They were allowed in the backyard, under the stipulation they promised to keep away from the skunks. They promised they would, and went out to play.
A few hours later, they came back inside. They grandparents asked, “Did you see any skunks?”
They said, “No, but we did see lots of black and white kitties!”
A lot of the dangers in this world are just like that. They look relatively harmless unless you know better – which is why it’s vital to give your kids as much information as possible, at age-appropriate levels.
A few topics and resources to help:
God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies: This is a simple story that explains to kids (especially those between 2-8) that every part of their body is special because it’s created by God. It’s a jumping-off point to discussing private parts in a body-positive way, which prevents the shame that sometimes precludes the reporting of sexual abuse. It’s a great resource.
Where Do Babies Come From?: Our First Talk About Birth: This is literally “just enough” for kids who are curious about how babies get in their mother’s bellies. It uses proper terms and describes the process without getting overly into specifics.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds: I never realized I would need to have discussions about the dangers of pornography so early with my kids, but – here we are. This makes a tricky topic a lot more accessible, for both kids and parents who are concerned about too much, too soon.
This book also includes a very thorough parent’s guide in the back to help know how to protect kids from internet pornography.
NOTE: If there are other specific topics you’d like to see resources on, comment below or email me and email@example.com and I’ll be sure to update this section accordingly!
In addition to these books, I also make it a point to answer my kids’ questions as thoroughly as I can.
For instance, if we’re watching Live PD as a family, questions about drugs often come up. My son will ask what they are, why they’re not allowed to have them, etc. I simply explain that they’re things that people put in their bodies that are dangerous – then answer any follow-up questions as necessary.
If your kids know nothing is off-limits to talk to you about, they will be far less likely to keep things from you – which is a huge asset to keeping them safe from dangerous things.
Remember: ignorance is not bliss. So don’t let discomfort get in the way of giving your kids the benefit of knowledge of themselves, others, and the world around them to empower them to stay safe.
Make internet safety a priority.
I’ve got to say, it’s not the idea of the creepy stranger at the park that terrifies me quite so much as the creepy internet stranger reaching out to my kids via social media.
After all, the creepy stranger at the park tends to stay at the park. The creepy stranger has access, basically, to our home.
And the thing is, I can’t constantly be there to watch what my son is doing on the computer. Even if the computer is in a heavy traffic area of our house, it’s just not possible to keep tabs 24/7.
That’s why I’m a HUGE fan of Bark: it’s an internet monitoring service that allows you to keep tabs on your kids’ internet usage without feeling like you’re stalking them.
It simply recognizes risk factors for pornography, drug use, suicidal ideation, and all sorts of other things kids might be searching for information about that you should know.
Sign up through this link (manually enter code 8RR3C4F if necessary) to get 20% off your (already reasonably priced) subscription for life.
Get to know the warning signs of danger.
It’s important to recognize the danger signs that something has happened to your child. RAINN has a good guide to recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse.
Is it pleasant to know these things? Nope. But remember: knowledge is a gift. Sometimes it’s a painful gift, but it’s much less so than it would be for something to happen and be ill-equipped to handle it.
Speaking of which…
Know how to respond if something happens.
God forbid you’ll need to know this, but it’s important to know how to respond to your child if they disclose to you that they’ve been sexually abused – because the first response to outcry can shape everything about how they internalize the trauma.
I remember being a witness to a child telling their mother another child had reached into her pants. My heart dropped, and I bet her mother’s did, too, but her response was, “What? That’s disgusting.”
That’s when my heart fell further, because I knew that child had heard her mother’s upset as, “You’re disgusting.”
I’m not blaming the mother here – I get it! But situations like these are exactly why you need an action plan in case something like this were to come up.
Parents Protect has a thorough guide to responding to a child telling you about abuse that is super helpful to read.
Listen to your gut.
Your instincts are there for a reason, Mama. They’re designed to keep you and your kids safe from harm.
So if you have a funny feeling in your stomach about a particular friend or family member, listen to it – whether it makes sense or not.
It doesn’t mean you have to be rude or cause a rift. You may just need to adjust plans if your gut is telling you to do so.
Trust me – you’ll never regret listening to that intuition, or to the intervention of the Holy Ghost, or whatever you feel it is. I’ll say it again: it’s there for a reason.
Pray like crazy.
Pray specifically for the safety of each of your kids.
Pray for their discernment to figure out whether a given situation is safe or unsafe, whether a person is dangerous or not.
Pray for the strength they need to make the safe decision, even if it’s hard to do. Even if it’s not the popular decision.
Pray that you’ll know how to meet their needs and that you will recognize if something goes wrong.
Pray for everything and let your heart be light, knowing you have a Father in Heaven who’s eager to answer every single request you have.
You don’t have to keep your kids safe all by yourself.
Okay, that was tough. It’s hard to admit we live in such a fallen and dangerous world that we have to tackle these subjects with our kids so early, but if you can be brace and do so, they’ll be all the better for it.
You’ve got this, Mama, and you’re not alone. There are lots of mothers just like you, trying to do right by their kids – and if we work together and make use of all the resources available to us, we can do it!
With that in mind, do you have any additional safety tips to share? Feel free to share them in the comments or, for more anonymity, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to share them in this post!
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