As I started thinking about how to put this article together, so many thoughts and ideas ran through my mind. Aside from checklists and tasks, (which are very helpful and specific), what information would be most helpful for parents?
Below, you will find my best attempt at sharing with you what I have learned in my last twenty years of parenting and knowledge imparted by my mentors. Mentors are the bomb! They help take the charge out of your struggle, anger, sadness, confusion and help you see the situation or issue more clearly. Most often, the message is that your child’s behavior and state of being is not to be taken personally; and that their actions are not tied to your ego. That can be hard to remember as they get older.
So parents, how can you keep your kids safe?
Here Are 12 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe:
Learn about what is happening developmentally for them. This gives insight into what they are capable of, what they may be struggling with and how to support them.
Teach them and practice with them the ability to self-advocate
This is important both within the family setting, while at school, or out in public. They need to know how and when to speak up for what they need or don’t understand; and to be comfortable in speaking not only with kids, but adults too. They need to know their full name, your name(s), where they live, and who to call in an emergency. This encourages them to be calm in urgent situations.
The internet and social media are the most dangerous of places
They need to understand how the internet and social media works and how people misuse information. This is goes for parents too. As someone who doesn’t love the tech scene, I learned that it is essential to know what sites your kids are engaging with and what information they are sharing. Sharing no information is best. It sounds unrealistic, but the less they put out there, the less potential trouble there will be. Coaches, employers and colleges, all check out your child’s online profiles and posts. Once they are out there, it is nearly impossible to make them disappear.
Be cautious as parents
As parents, we also need to be cautious about what we are posting online in the way of pictures and information regarding our kids and family activities. If you wouldn’t give a stranger this information, refrain from posting it online.
No one likes to be compared to their siblings or their peers; especially young kids and teens who are still developing their sense of self. Their grades, tests and coaches provide an abundance of this data on a daily basis. They need to hear from you that you love them just as they are; for their unique qualities and quirks. This is so important in their development of individuality and healthy self-esteem, because it empowers them to be more resilient in managing peer pressure in the future.
When they experience your love and support regardless of their accomplishments, they are empowered to try more things and to make more mistakes. Making mistakes is essential to building resiliency; whether it is a toddler learning to walk, a new reader, a teen navigating difficult classes or social situations, or a young adult going off to college.
Allow them to fail
Falling teaches children how to get back up because they can, not because they are seeking anyone’s approval. They gain confidence in their ability to, “dust off,” and try again. As a result, they have less anxiety and fear about the future and whether they can manage new challenges, because they are experienced in growing through obstacles.
Try not to do for them what they can do for themselves
This requires oodles of patience and self-control as a parent, especially when we feel pressured by time and to-do lists. Stay the course; the benefits are worth the wait. Over time, your child becomes more self-reliant and confident in making decisions and managing daily tasks. This in turn makes them less dependent on you and creates smoother transitions in the future.
I am aware that based upon their personality and age, they may strongly object to being “taught;” the best learning is hands-on.
Spend time together
Invest your time and take them with you when you are running errands, going to appointments and working on projects. All of these real-life experiences teach them how the world works; how to organize, prioritize and deal with the unknowns. Let them help you or give them a job and explain to them what is going on. This is not always convenient, but it truly makes a difference. It never hurts to throw in a little incentive. Surprisingly, this can be a great opportunity for good conversation and time to connect with your kids and young adults in a more light-hearted way.
There is a difference in being present and having presence; kids can sense this from a very early age. When you are with them, engage fully. Listen with your eyes, ask questions and be interested. You want them to know that what they have to say matters and that you are available. This is especially important as they get older and the content involves more serious topics and concerns. You want them to be comfortable in coming to you for help; even when they have made poor choices and mistakes.
Admit your mistakes and they are more likely to admit theirs
There is great benefit in showing them that we all make mistakes and have the opportunity to move on from them. Doing this invites them to own their behavior.
Most importantly, model for your kids the kinds of behaviors you want them to learn. Believe it or not, you are their most important teacher and role model. They are always watching.
Do you have any tips for keeping your children safe that were not mentioned above? If so, please share them with us in the comments section below!
Many blessings to you on your parenting journey!