Give children and teens the protection and safeguards they need
Children have a natural tendency, developmentally, towards curiosity and wanting to explore everything and to engage with people around them.
This natural curiosity can lead children and teens toward some danger zones. Children often lack the skills or the experience to protect themselves and any person can be hurt, put at risk of harm or abused regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or religious affiliation.
“Safeguarding” is a term that is broader than ”child protection” because it relates to both the actions taken to promote the welfare of children and the actions taken to protect them from harm. Below are a few tips parents can use to teach children how to be safe:
Tips for children
• Practice with your children their name, address, telephone number and parents’ names.
• Instill in your children the need to check first with you or the person in charge before they go anywhere or before they get into a car, even with someone they know.
• Instill in your children the need to check first with their parents or a trusted adult before accepting anything – candy, beverages, gifts – from anyone, even from someone they know.
• Have your children always take a friend with them when they go places or play outside.
• Teach children to say “no!” if someone tries to touch them or treat them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.
Tips for Teens
• Remind them don’t go out alone. There is safety in numbers. This rule isn’t just for little kids, it applies to teens, too.
• Always tell an adult where you’re going. Letting someone know where they’ll be at all times is smart. If a teen is faced with a risky situation or gets into trouble, family and friends will know where to find him or her.
• To say “no!” if they feel threatened. If someone—anyone—touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, they have the right to say no. This right remains whether it is pressure about sex, drugs or doing something that teens know is wrong; Tell teens to be strong and to stand their ground.
Every one of us is in a position to remind ourselves and our children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews and others about their safety and protection measures. Parents of children and teens are their primary safety coaches. Being a safety coach requires a great deal of patience, persistence, listening and genuine interest in what children and teens are doing and with whom the youth are active. Together, we can protect our nation’s most precious resource by teaching them to be smart, strong and safe.
Dr. Rosemary Celaya-Alston is the Director of the Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection Office for the Diocese of Tucson.