All children and young people need strategies to make certain that they can protect themselves and make appropriate decisions about safety. Although it is important that children and young people learn to protect themselves taking their own risks are equally important as long as significant harm will not take place. Children in particular need to learn about strangers as some people are not always going to be kind to them but also the significant message must be that not everyone they come into contact with is going to be someone that will present any harm.
Children and young people need to have good self-esteem and confidence and a good self-image (so it is important to promote this from a young age) so they know they are important, should be respected by all and know that there are trusted adults there to help them and keep them safe. Some strategies that will enable children to protect themselves are: Adults to reinforce about dangers that are posed by some adults which helps to minimise risk. Reinforcement of correct behaviour with higher risk activities (e.g. Road Safety, Green Cross Code, Cycling Proficiency) With older children drug, alcohol and sex education and the effects they have on young people. It is important that an adult gives these strategies at the appropriate developmental stage (e.g. younger children may use different words for parts of their bodies) Reinforce the rights and wrongs for example:
Hugs and kisses – tell a child that it is fine to have hugs and kisses, particularly from close family but these should never be kept as a secret. Body – Explain that a person’s body is their possession and does not belong to any other person. If anybody touches or tries to touch your body in a way that you do not want them to or that is frightening to you then you must say NO and inform somebody about what has taken place immediately.
Stranger danger – Explain to a child that they must not talk to a stranger or go off with a stranger under any circumstances even if the stranger knows their name, says they know their parent etc. If a stranger, bully or someone they know tries to hurt them, they must leave and get help whether that is towards a crowd or a shop. To be heard – If a child is in a situation where they are being harmed they must shout out as this is acceptable when someone is hurting you or they are scared, in danger. Truth – Always tell a trusting adult if and what has happened to you.
Secrets – Do not keep any secrets about any person that is bullying, kissing or touching you. If anybody tells you to keep their actions a secret then tell an adult that you trust immediately. Bribes – Do not take any gifts from anybody without your parent/carers permission. If a gift is from someone close to your family usually it will be ok however some people will use gifts you bribe you to keep something a secret.
Code – You could have a code word with you parent/carer which only you and they know so that if somebody else picks you up they are told the code so that you know they are the correct person to pick you up. Sex – for older children, explain about ‘the birds and the bees’ when it is appropriate to have sexual relations and who with etc. Drink and drugs – Explain the effects that drink and drug use can have on the health and development, how they can damage your health, well- being and can possibly put you in vulnerable situations.