Keeping Our Kids Safe

For the past two weeks, parents all over Dubai have been talking about William Ball. He was a teacher here in Dubai who was arrested while visiting the US. The specific charges include some heinous crimes against children. This incident has led to a lot of discussions about child safety. 

Here are some of our thoughts on how to keep our kids safe.

What we should be telling our kids...

 

1. "It's not just strangers"

Many of us focus on the stereotypical stranger danger scenario - a man in a tinted car offering candy to children. Yes, this happens and yes, it's scary. But the statistics show that children are much more likely to be victimized by people they know, than total strangers. It's important that our conversations about child safety make reference to strangers as well as people we know. More on that in a minute.

2. "Listen to your body"

It's important to teach our children to trust their instincts and listen to their bodies. Our fight-or-flight response is designed to alert us to potential danger. It's important to teach our kids about the signs which can include rapid heart rate, sweating, and a knot in our stomachs.

3. "I'm listening to you"

We need to listen to our children when they reach out to us, even if we think that they are misinterpreting something or blowing it out of proportion. This is important because it signals to our kids that we pay attention to their concerns and are there for them. This will increase the chance that they will continue to be open with us about these incidents. We also know that strong parent-child relationships are characterized by open communication. Check out some of our published research on this.

4. "No more secrets"

Most of us grew up with little secrets between ourselves and our loved ones. These were typically harmless secrets about staying up a little late or having an extra slice of cake. We want to move away from normalizing secrets, since this is what perpetrators usually say to kids when they know them ("This is our little secret" or "This is our secret game").

5. "Some touches are right, and some touches are wrong"

It can help to read certain books with our kids about physical touch. I recommend The Right Touch - a book I have read with my own children to educate them on what kind of touch is appropriate and what kind of touch is not. It also talks about what we can do when we are touched in the wrong way, and how it's never the child's fault.

6. "You have the right to say 'no'"

We need to empower our children to say 'no' when they are uncomfortable (see point 2). This means respecting their wishes when we ask them for a hug or a kiss and they say no. We want our kids to know that they have autonomy and control over their bodies, and that their wishes should be respected.

These are some strategies that we can use to keep our kids safe. We hope you found them helpful. You can read more about child safety in this piece from Time Out Kids, as well as the latest issue of Mother, Baby, & Child magazine. Please share your favourite resources with us too!

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