By Sgt Nathalie Ranger
It is our job, our duty to keep our children safe. Our responsibility is to teach them basic safety and crime prevention.
• Help your children learn their full name, phone number (including area code), and address.
• Teach children how to call 919 or 911.
• Teach them how to identify “safe” adults, like a police officer, security guard or a teacher.
• Explain to them that they should never accept a ride, food, or gifts from someone unless you approve.
• Take logical safety precautions in public, like accompanying younger children to the bathroom.
• Teach your children the power of “no”. No one has a right to touch them if it makes them uncomfortable, and you will never, ever get angry if they tell you that someone has touched them, despite what that person might threaten.
• Designate a safe spot in your neighbourhood, like a trusted friend’s house, to go to in case of emergency.
• Evaluate your neighbourhood for areas of safety concern – wooded areas, poorly lighted areas, etc. – and teach your children to be safe or avoid the area altogether.
All children step out on their own at some point, whether it is to walk to the bus stop or run to a friend’s house. Part of our parental responsibility is teaching children how to stay safe when we are not around.
• Encourage your children to use the buddy system – walk and play with friends or classmates.
• Teach your children to avoid solitary areas, like alleys and vacant buildings.
• With your children, map out the safest routes to the bus stop, stores and friends’ houses. Explain that they should not take shortcuts and should always stick to this route.
• Explain the importance of alertness even if they are listening to music or chatting with a friend, your children should be aware of their surroundings.
• Never talk to strangers (unless they are designated “safe,” like police).
• Teach your children that if they sense danger, it is okay to yell “help!” and find a safe adult. They do not need to feel embarrassed.
• Ask your children to check in when they get home from school, if they are planning to stay late, if they go to a friend’s house, etc.
• Listen up. Let your children know that they can always talk to you without shame or embarrassment. Take their concerns and complaints seriously.
• Emphasise words and mediation over violence. Tell your children to always speak with an adult if they see children or adults with knives, guns or other weapons.
Avoiding Sexual Abuse
Do not be embarrassed to speak to your children about their personal space and rights to their own bodies.
• Help your children understand that no one, not even a relative or authority figure, is allowed to touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
• Talk to them every day. Listen to their concerns and observe unspoken discomfort.
• Encourage conversation.
• Never shame or punish your child for confiding in you.
• Do not force children to sit on someone’s lap, or to hug or kiss someone if they do not want to. This helps teach them that they have control over their own bodies.
• Remind your children not to talk to strangers.
• Keep alert to warning behaviours that could indicate sexual abuse. These may include increased anxiety, sudden hostility, and secretiveness, and can extend to physical symptoms such as bedwetting, nightmares and genital irritation or pain.