I decided to be a bit serious and write a bit about what kind of things we do in the house of O to keep the boys safe in the big bad world. Some of these things are as a direct result of situations that have come up in the last few years in our lives. Although they are only young, I hope that the strategies we have in place will evolve as they grow up and not make them fearful, just aware and empowered. Well that's the plan anyway. Only time will tell. It probably sounds like I am a serious helicopter parent, but believe me I'm not. This is just about giving them some tools to keep themselves safe in most cases.
The "They drive a white van" post over at Maxabella loves started me on this train of thought and after writing a fairly long comment on her blog post, I thought I would expand on it here in Glad Game land. We may sound like we are over the top, but in fact I am a very laid back parent. I like to give them the room to make their own mistakes and explore the world. I never hover. I don’t rush over when they fall over but I keep an eye on them, from a distance if possible. I like them to feel independent and feel able to come to me and ask for help if they need it. Unfortunately circumstances have made us have a “kidnap drill” for them but as it turns out, these days I feel it has been a positive thing.
I mentioned in my comment about doing kidnap drill. That's what the Workaholic and I refer to it as, but I 'm sure it has lots of other names, we didn't invent it, we just adapted it to suit our personal situation at the time. I think the idea was given to us originally by a bodyguard we had during the rough stuff (I know, I would never believe it if I hadn't lived with him in my house). He suggested we discuss a bunch of scenarios with the Little Man and settle on a best solution to each.
In our case we had reason to keep an eye out for kidnap. It had happened to people we knew and we were dealing with some pretty scary and totally unpredictable people at the time.
Back when we started these conversations/drills, I was pretty upset that my child was living this way, but it has really been a positive thing. We talk about everything. I am really careful to make sure he gets the answers he needs. I think it is really important to answer the questions he comes up with in an honest manner and the teacher in me tends to throw questions back at him. If he asks me why something happened a particular way, I ask him why he thinks it did and then what else could have happened if it had happened differently. Because he gets taken seriously and usually ends up with an answer, he talks to me all of the time. I hope this is a habit he continues throughout his life. I do notice how much more he asks me questions than the Workaholic. I'd say this is because of a couple of reasons, firstly the Workaholic is partially deaf so it is sometimes very difficult to get his attention and secondly he doesn't engage in conversation, he just simply answers the question. I think the style of communication you have with your kids is key to keeping them safe. You want them to feel like they can come to you with anything.
Here is a scenario the Little Man and I discussed last week;
“You walk down the driveway to the mail box. A car pulls up and the man/woman in the car asks you a question and wants you to come closer to the car. What do you do?”
His solution was to start yelling out to myself or other adult at home with him, saying that there was "a man in a white car trying to talk to him" (his idea to describe the car) while already running back up the driveway, leaving the mail if it was going to slow him down.
I find with him it is best to include that last detail because if we don't mention that in this case, that the mail is less important than him being safe, he would not prioritise that himself in a real situation and would end up flustered and possibly delaying his flight up the driveway trying to hang onto the mail or stopping to pick it up. One thing I have noticed about these scenarios is that instead of making him afraid of being in the front yard (which is what I feared would happen with a scenario like this one), he is quite happy to be out there.
We have quite a few of these scenarios firmly explored and planted in his brain, just in case. Sometimes they come up because he sees something and asks me what he should do in that scenario.
From the beginning we have been clear with the boys about private and public body parts. They know very clearly who gets to see and touch what and they have also been taught the correct names for their private parts. I was recently astonished to read about some of the names that kids have been taught for their penis and vulva or vagina (I say both are OK as any adult knows what a vulva and vagina is). The one I am most disturbed by is "cupcake". If a little girl came up to you and told you that "Uncle Johnny touched her cupcake", what would you do? Nothing, I'm guessing. Very strange indeed! I think it is a very important thing for your child's security to call a penis a penis.
We have taught the Little Man our address and phone number EVERY time it has changed. He also knows about 000 and who he should approach if he is lost in a shopping centre (security and uniformed staff who we point out when we are there, every time). We also point out things like information booths and other "safe" landmarks.
When he is walking with me he holds onto a strap on the handle of the pram. We use a stretchy wrist strap with the wrist part attached to the pram so he can hold onto the handle loop. I started him on this as soon as he was old enough to walk. The Munchkin is now holding onto it when he is out of the pram too. It's a very simple but effective way to keep them with you in a crowd.
If we are going to an event like the Easter show or to the Zoo etc, I also always write my phone number on the inside of their arm AND I use the wrist ID tags from That's mine, it is probably overkill, but it makes me feel better. Another simple thing I do when we are going somewhere crowded is dress them in bright colours. We have a bright yellow Zoo T shirt that the Little Man happily don's for Zoo trips. These simple things make it possible for me to feel pretty relaxed and I think that is important for them to also feel relaxed. I want them to enjoy these sort of outings and me being tense and stressed is going to put everyone on edge and ruin the day.
What’s the Password?
Recently, we added a password to our security strategy. It’s a word that anyone who has genuinely been sent by myself or the Workaholic to pick them up etc. I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen since primary school and remembered it had been something that her family did and I thought could be handy for any family.
Her father was a prison officer and they had a family password. They used it for identifying if a person was actually sent by their parents to pick them up and as a code for other situations, such as if an inmate had entered a restaurant where they were eating. They had to leave in a certain way and meet in a particular place. We don’t need that but I think a password is a great way for kids to make sure that the person picking them up really was sent by their parents.
So these are some of the things we do to help keep our kids safe and make them aware of and be involved in their own safety as they grow up. Obviously, there are hundreds of other little everysday things, but these are the key ones as far as stranger danger goes. I wish they were not necessary and I hope we never have to use most of our scenarios in reality, but I do feel better knowing they are in place.
What about you? Do you have safety measures like in place? Do you think they are necessary?