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Keep safe at all times - By Ruth Liew

Educating your child about personal safety starts with you.

WHEN your child was younger, you could child-proof your house and warn him of the dangers in the surroundings. As he grows older, he is more independent and curious about his world. By which time it’s necessary to give him a few tips about personal safety.

In fact, teaching children about personal safety is an on-going process. You need to condition your child to be mindful of his own safety. Constantly remind them about safety rules when you are out shopping or taking a leisurely walk with them. Occasionally, ask your child about the people he meets and talks to. You may unearth information that could alert you to potential dangers.

The education of personal safety must be geared towards the child’s age and level of understanding. Many parents assume that their children who have learned to use the toilet are ready to use public amenities on their own. The occurrences of rape and physical abuse in public toilets are very real dangers indeed. So never allow your child, regardless of his age, to enter public toilets alone.

But avoid frightening children unduly. Try not to discuss with them what happens to children who are abducted or sexually abused. We can spare them the gruesome details and still educate them about personal safety. They should be constantly reassured that they are protected and loved.
Children must know that not everybody is nice. They have to learn ways to protect themselves against the “baddies”, such as not naively following any stranger who claims to be helping his parents to pick him up from school. Teach your child to be wary, too, of people who approach him with gifts or candies.

In our culture, children are taught to be polite and well-mannered to their elders. So when we tell them not to talk to or accept foods from other adults, the little ones may be confused. What we can do is to make sure our children feel safe and know who to turn to if they are feeling fearful or threatened. First of all, let your child know that there is always someone – you – to look after him and make sure he is safe.

Being assertive is not rudeness, remind them. Drum into him that it is perfectly all right to say “No!” to someone he does not know or is uncomfortable with. And that it’s their responsibility, too, to take care of themselves. While children may be unable to judge if a stranger is a good or bad person by his or her looks, it’s pertinent that they apply the safety rule – ignore any adult’s request for help when they are alone.

Encourage your child to express his opinions, and let him know whether you agree or not with him. When you listen to your child, you can help him develop good judgment skills and heighten his critical awareness. This way, your child will be better prepared to cope with various situations and people he encounters outside the home.Tell your kids that no one has the right to touch them against their will, or to ask them to touch another person’s private parts. Respect your child’s right to refuse. If an adult relative requests for a hug from your reluctant child, do politely decline on the child’s behalf.

Confident children will not be easily lured, though they will still need to remember safety rules.
Always anticipate potential dangers and ensure that the child is under the supervision of a trusted adult. Parents and caregivers have a duty to keep children safe at all times.

Ruth Liew is a child developmentalist, Montessori trainer and examiner. A mother of two teenage daughters, she is committed to supporting children’s rights.

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