Q: What is the right age to talk about personal safety with your child?
I will admit, it is a bit of a trick question. There isn’t one right age to talk about safety. Questions adapt as children get older, new “What If” scenarios come into play as kids log in to reach out, and sometimes life will throw a curve ball that needs to be addressed quickly.
One model is to have a family safety night at least twice each year. We suggest having an intentional time when school starts and again as school wraps up to talk personal safety together as a family. Keep the discussion positive and interactive, staying away from a lecture format that could have kids tuning out.
Some ideas to make it interactive include:
- Have your child trace their fingers and write in the names of five adults they can talk to if someone was breaking their rules.
- Choose a Family Password to use if your child needs a ride home with no questions asked.
- Use the “What If” model by using scenarios to learn more about what your child knows, doesn’t know, and encourage more conversation:
- “What If the person breaking your body safety rules is someone that we know and like? What would you do then?”
- “Well, you told me that even if the person is someone I know, I still have the right to my own body and can say no. Even if I freeze and forget to say no, it still isn’t my fault. It’s a grown-up’s job to keep kids safe, so I would tell one of my 5 grown-ups and keep telling until I find one who can help me.”
Family Safety Nights are one way to intentionally cover hard topics in a non-threatening and positive way. It’s the goal to move away from the fear that freezes us and move toward positive, accessible information that helps families know what to do if a safety problem comes up. Scared children are not safer children. We want children to walk around smart and not scared.