BY MOMWISE CHINONYE ONWUNLI
By the age of 11, my parents would leave me to take care of my 3 younger siblings at home during summer breaks. My youngest sibling was 2 years old at the time. Although it is not the norm to leave young children alone at this age, I am grateful that I was able to help care for my siblings.
As we nurture our young children, we should remind them that they are loved. We should also provide them with security and comfort. However, it is just as important to prepare them for the world that is outside our home. We should prepare our children for a world that is not very secure and just might be a little scary. This is a tricky task.
How do you teach your child to respect their elders but also not talk to strangers? Love their uncles and cousins freely but also maintain physical boundaries?
As a child, I was taught never to open the door for anyone. I knew my parent’s names and my home phone number. I knew not to accept rides or gifts from people I did not know. Other things unfortunately, I had to learn through experience.
Encouraging our children to trust their instincts is also important. We will not be able to be there with them all the time and we must empower them to protect themselves to the best of their abilities and make sound decisions. Let’s encourage them to be alert on the playground or yard, and tell an adult, whether it’s you, a teacher, a neighbor, a police officer etc. about anything they see that does not seem right.
If they get lost in the mall, let’s teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard rather than a stranger, even though they might seem nice. At home, tell your children never to open the door without first gaining your permission.
Can your 6-year-old call for help during an emergency? It is not as easy to pick up the phone and dial 911 as it was for me growing up. There was one phone; it was on the wall, all I had to do was lift it and dial. Now we have multiple mobile phones in our homes, some require one’s fingerprint to enter. It’s a great idea to practice with your children so they can be prepared.
Inform your children that there are places that no one should touch on their bodies. Some parts of their bodies are private such as their butts, breasts and pee area. It is uncomfortable to have these conversations sometimes but it is good to have them early.
It is also important to discuss what they should do in the event that someone does touch them in the “No-No” places. As with any emergency, we should try to be prepared.
Generally during the summer seasons, children have more time to play but may also be exposed to frightening situations. Ephesians 6:4 says… “Parents, do not anger your children, but bring them up in the discipline and in the teaching of our Lord.” Getting children street smart is a balancing act of providing warnings and assurance.
Back to School season is a great time to practice that balance!
What are some other steps that parents can take to prevent children from strangers?
What tips and practical instincts have worked for you as a parent? What physical boundaries have you put in place today to prevent “stranger danger”?
We would love to hear from you!