prepare 'em. don't scare 'em.
Updated: Mar 4, 2018
Every child is a superhero.
Oblivious of the world's dangers, as parents we hope to keep them that way forever.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is how can we teach our kids to protect themselves as they get older without terrifying them or causing them to distrust every human being they meet.
When our babies are small and donning the costumes of their favorite characters, it is our job as parents to protect them from the world and its dangers. We don't allow them to be alone with unsafe people, we keep them away from the internet, we hold hands crossing the street, and carefully buckle them into anything that moves.
And we watch. We watch constantly. We watch their every move. Our young ones are never out of sight of someone we trust beyond the shadow of our darkest doubts.
Along the way, we teach in age appropriate ways never to let anyone, no matter who they are, touch them where they wear swimsuits. We teach them if they ever feel bad in any way at all with another person, to tell us. We teach them not to keep a secret for or with another adult. We teach them that good people do not ask children to help find lost puppies or give them candy or toys as a way to get the child to do something. We give our children code words to know a safe person we send for them, we teach them how to identify safe adults in their environment, and we create a safety plan if they ever get lost.
This is preparation for times when we cannot be there to protect our children as they age. Such preparation is a lifelong conversation couched in terms of their own benefit, rather than the nasty world around them. It offers them the safety and security every child needs to thrive.
As our tots turn to teens, oblivion turns to invulnerability. Our kids become aware of the dangers of the world, yet they hold a sense of power that they are impervious to those dangers.
The superhero inside remains.
Christine Parker, MA is a Provisionally Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with many years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families.