Here are 8 simple things all parents can do from home to keep kids safe and to make sure their child knows what to do in a self defence situation, including if they are being bullied, threatened or inappropriately approached.
1. FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES
There are some basic safety messages that children can be taught from a very young age which set the foundation for good self defence. This is first and foremost how much they mean to their mum, dad and family, and how they should never be taken away.
From there, ensure you child knows that they should never wander off without mum or dad knowing, and the existence of danger in any environment. Knowing exactly who picks and drops them off at school or daycare is essential, and that they should never leave with anyone else. Anything different should be reported to a teacher.
As a final fundamental principle, you should also teach your child to avoid any potential danger as quickly as possible while also making them aware of the option of defending themselves from an attacker if necessary.
2. VERBAL ASSERTION & DE-ESCALATION
At COBRA, we know that 99% of all fights, abductions and abuse scenarios are 100% avoidable. Unless someone is absolutely physically attacking you, most everything can be resolved by verbal assertion, verbal de-escalation or simply walking away. This means verbal assertion or de-escalation is one of the pillars of self defence and an important lesson we can teach and role model as parents.
We are mums and dads too, so we understand the reticence of teaching children to talk tough and to be verbally assertive. We don’t want our kids to come across as impolite or rude. But at the end of the day, your child’s ability to verbally assert themselves can be enough to deter a would-be predator or to deny a school bully the emotional result they want. A child standing up for themselves is a learnt skill. We need to teach it to children and explain that it’s only when talking fails that things should ever get physical.
3. TALK ABOUT 'TRICKY' PEOPLE
Statistically children are more at risk of abuse from someone they know, which is why 'stranger danger' is now an outdated concept. This is why it's best to talk to your children about 'tricky' people, and not specifically talk about 'strangers'. We want to move the focus away from ‘strangers’ to teach children to recognise the dangers when anyone, even if someone known to them, asks them to go with them.
Basic rules include:
Never accept gifts or sweets if your parents are not with you
Never accept a lift in a car without your parents knowing
Never go off on your own without telling a parent or trusted adult
Never go up to a car to give directions – keep away so that no one can get hold of you and you can run away
Always tell a trusted adult if you have been approached by someone
Never teach a child to be afraid of approaching the police
If you think that you are being followed, go into a shop and ask for help
Never play in dark or lonely places
Stay with your group of friends – never wander off on your own
Never agree to do a job for someone you don't know in return for money – they may be trying to trick you
4. ROLE PLAY LIGHT STRESSORS
If there is one benefit from COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s the additional time it provides us at home with our children. This is a great opportunity to role-play. Putting light stressors on a child will help them practice how to react to a bully or aggressor. We can role-play bullying situations with children so that they feel prepared for this in social environments, and we can simulate kidnapping scenarios to drill appropriate responses.
Kids can’t be expected to react in a way that makes sense if they have never had practice. Importantly, those role-plays should include verbal de-escalation — a perfect time to teach a kid the finer points of trash talk.
5. KNOW THE DETAILS
It is important to know the details of your child’s whereabouts and movements when away from the house, no matter what age. For teens in particular, parents should ask specific questions before they go out alone such as:
What are you planning to do?
Where are you going?
Who are you going with?
What time do you expect to get home?
How will you be getting home?
You might also consider tracking your child so you can see in real-time where they are by tracking their phones. Your child can also share their location with you via WhatsApp, or you could use the 'Find my iPhone' app to track your child. Be sure to teach your child not to share their location settings with other apps or people though.
6. TEACH “TELL, YELL, RUN” RULE
It is a must that parents teach children what to do if they're approached. We love the; “Tell, Yell, Run” rule. Essentially, this tells your child to run away and scream if someone follows them or tries to force them into a car. It then teaches them to always tell you what happened.
Other lessons in this include teaching kids to walk in the opposite direction if a car is following them (this will buy them time while the car turns around). It's also important they know their own address.
7. TALK TO THEM ABOUT PANTS
The PANTS campaign aims to keep children safe from sexual abuse. From 'P' through to 'S', each letter gives an important message for children as young as four to help them stay safe.
Privates are private
Always remember your body belongs to you
No means no
Talk about secrets that upset you
Speak up, someone can help
8. MAKE ONLINE SAFETY A PRIORITY
Children have been spending more time online due to coronavirus, but it's important they know there are dangers online, as well as outside. Understanding what your child likes to do online is a good first step in helping to keep them safe online. Installing parental controls on their devices is also a great idea.
We have a dedicated blog post about cyber safety to help you keep your children safe online that you can read at: https://www.cobraselfdefence.com/blog
In concusion, we beg you - please don’t take your child’s safety for granted! Use lockdown and these 8 steps to help you take a positive step forward in ensuring your child’s safety and self defence skills. Let’s protect our children from any possible compromising situations and do whatever it takes to stay vigilant as their guardian and heroes!
Follow and like for more tips and advice from COBRA Sunshine Coast.