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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Grandma Wants a Hug – Teachable Moment

Parenting Safe Children ImageThe holidays are a time of greetings and affection, so it’s particularly important to remember that children and teens are safer when they get to choose when and with whom to show affection.

If a family member or friend wants to greet your child with a hug or kiss, and your child does not want to, then seize this teachable moment and stand up for your child by modeling healthy boundaries and communicating clearly.

Grandma: “Oh, it’s so good to see you. Give grandma a hug.”

Mom or Dad: “I know you’re a hugger, Mom, but we’ve taught Darius that he gets to choose when he shows affection and it looks like he doesn’t want to hug right now. Darius, is there another way you'd like to greet grandma besides hugging her."

I know how natural it is for parents and grandparents to want to shower their children and grandchildren with hugs and kisses, but giving children a choice about physical affection teaches that consent matters.

It is never a child’s job to manage the feelings of other people. For more on this topic, check out the Parenting Safe Children December 16 post on Facebook.

When Children Play – a Teachable Moment

Parenting Safe Children - ImageYou’ve just eaten a big meal and the children, of all different ages, are restless. They want to go play while the adults linger over coffee. What kind of supervision is required to ensure everyone’s safety?

Children can get into scenarios while playing which can be compromising. Remind kids to keep the doors open and review body-safety practices with them. Also let the kids know to come ask if they need anything and let them know that you’ll be in to check on them from time to time.

As children go off to play, remind both the children and the adults about your family’s four body-safety practices:

  • Everyone plays with their clothes on.
  • No one touches private parts.
  • We don’t keep secrets.
  • If you feel unsafe in any way, come tell a trusted adult.
Pay particular attention to much older children who are playing with much younger children—i.e., an age difference of four or more years. Consider these scenarios between Justin (14 years old) and Jaime (6 years old), and note the behaviors of potential or actual concern:
  • Jaime repeatedly pulls Justin out of the group of kids and disappears with him. (teen isolating a child from larger group)
  • Justin squeezes Jaime’s buttocks several times. (sexualized teasing)
  • Justin squeezes Jaime’s buttocks when Jaime has asked him to stop. (poor boundaries)
  • Justin shows Jaime an adult porn magazine. (sexually harmful behavior)
  • Justin swears Jaime to secrecy about a special place in the basement. (secrecy)
Children need supervision regardless of the setting. Listen to your intuition and speak up if you feel uncomfortable. By communicating safety practices in front of other adults, you are modeling prevention and opening the door for conversation.

Air Travel for the Holidays – Teachable Moment

Whether you are traveling over the holidays or sometime in 2017, here are some body-safety conversation tips for talking with your children about airport security, x-ray machines, and pat downs.
Parenting Safe Children Image

  1. Talk with children about airport and airplane rules. With young children (< age 8), have this conversation on the way to the airport. With older children (ages 8+), you can have the conversation further in advance if you wish. Language for young children: People who work at airports have rules we must follow just like at home, school, and other places. These rules keep everyone safe.
  2. Compare airport safety to other kinds of safety. Language for young children: Just like you have to sit in your car seat when we drive or wear a helmet when you ride your bike, there are certain rules at the airport. To make the topic of safety less scary, weave in general safety expectations.
    Language for young children: On the plane, we stay in our seats unless we are using the toilet. We keep our seat belt on at all times.
  3. Explain to children what to expect. Language for young children: We’ll check our bags and then we’ll stand in a line where we have to take off our shoes, jackets and belts. Then we’ll go through a metal detector or x-ray machine. In addition, a person who works at the airport and wears a uniform may have to touch our bodies over our clothes to make sure we are safe to get on the airplane.
  4. Answer questions directly and simply. Provide more details if your children are older and ask more questions. Language for young children: Because no one is allowed to take a knife or scissors or nail clippers on airplanes, and sometimes people forget to leave them home.
  5. If a pat down is requested, use this as a teachable moment to assert the body-safety rule on touching private parts. Language for young children: We've talked about body-safety rules and you know that no one is allowed to touch the private areas of your body except when the doctor needs to examine you and Mom or Dad is in the room with you. Well, this is another exception. The airport person may need to touch your body over your clothes. This is the only time someone can do this at the airport and I will be with you.
As always, try to make prevention fun. You might play a “what if game” to reinforce body safety at the airport, while including other situations as well.
  • What if someone else in the airport tried to touch your body—what would you say and do?
  • What if your babysitter wanted you to keep a secret—what would you say and do?
  • What if a kid at school wanted to look at your private parts in the bathroom—what would you say and do?
The answer to all of these questions is the same:
  1. Say “NO!”
  2. Go tell a trusted adult.