Your kids will experience dangerous situations from the moment they are born. From stranger danger to bullying, to friends who may have guns, there are a lot of reasons to start teaching your kids about how to stay safe while they are young. However, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has seen an increase in anxiety in both parents and kids when it comes to learning safety.
Despite the anxiety, it is important to teach your kids ways to stay safe in a dangerous world and in real life situations. There are ways that you can teach them how to stay safe while still keeping their fear relatively low.
Explain How to Recognize a Dangerous Situation and Make Do’s and Don’ts
For many of us, fear comes from the unknown. This is often the case with children who are learning about safety. If you are teaching them about stranger danger, talk to them about what makes a stranger dangerous, and who they should go to if they feel they are in danger. Typically once you explain to find a mom with kids or a person in a uniform, they understand and feel less alone and less afraid.
While you are explaining these situations, stay away from anxiety ridden “trigger phrases”. For example, avoiding saying “you’ll die if…” or “they will get you”. You want to teach your child to have a healthy respect for safety, but you don’t want to make them think that everyone in the world is going to try to kidnap them or kill them.BabyCenter.com says that it is important to empower your child by giving them information, not to scare them.
Make a list of things they should and should not do with regards to strangers, guns, bullying, and other dangerous situations and explain why they should or shouldn’t do each thing. This will give them clear rules so that they know what to do without feeling confused.
Role Play to Make Sure They Understand
One way that you can teach your child, have a little fun, and make sure they are understanding without fear is to role play. Sherryll Krazier , author of The Safe Child Book, says that role playing is key to teaching kids how to handle tricky situations. Act out what would happen if a stranger approaches them. Go outside and act out what to do if a stranger approaches them in a car. Make sure that they know that this is the best time to ask questions.
The National Crime Prevention Council suggests having your child practice “No. Go. Yell. Tell.” This is where the child should say no, run away, yell as loudly as they can, and tell an adult right away. Have them try this out a few times, and have them share with you who they would count as a trusted adult to tell. Role play with them as well about how they would handle a bully, what they might say if they are being bullied or if a friend is being bullied. You can also role play what to do if someone has a gun. These will all empower your child so that they feel more prepared for any scenario.
Listen to Your Child
As you teach your child about these sensitive subjects, it is important to listen to them and really hear what they are saying. If they are experiencing more anxiety than you feel they should after you have calmly spoken with them and role played, they may be experiencing something more than just regular childhood fear. Often, especially after something big and scary happens in the news, parents take the opportunity to talk about safety. However, this can lead to kids obsessing about the news and about their safety and can be caused by a deeper anxiety disorder .
It is important to remember that children process information much differently than adults. What may seem like something small to you may become something that sparks a lot of fear in your child, so make sure to pay attention to their behavior after the talk. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests that you stay calm if your child becomes anxious and try to talk about what is really bothering them so that you can get to the root of why they are scared.
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by Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine, TBParenting.com