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Teach your children to respectfully stand up for themselves

Leaving your child in another adult’s care requires a great deal of trust. You expect they will keep your child safe and treat him or her with respect. However, unfortunately, you cannot trust everyone.

Despite your best efforts to vet those who you put in authority over your children, you must remain diligent in watching for signs of maltreatment. It is wise to help prepare your children for an escape route, should the need arise. A code word can help.

Prepare your children for uncomfortable situations

Many times, children could feel awkward or uncomfortable in a situation without knowing what to do about it. Sometimes it may seem as though raising strong children feels like walking a tightrope between setting them up to advocate for themselves and teaching them to be rude or disrespectful.

However, considering how common child sex abuse scandals are in the news, it would be wise to inform your children about how to handle themselves in awkward situations.

Some ways to keep your children safe might include:

  • Teach your children to have boundaries. Children need to understand it is okay to tell someone “no.” While having your son or daughter refuse a goodnight kiss might make you feel bad, respecting your child’s boundaries is important for their health and development. Teaching your kids that they have control over their bodies can help empower them to refuse inappropriate or uncomfortable touch from someone else.
  • Be transparent. Conduct open and honest conversations with your children, so they do not feel inclined to keep secrets from you, especially ones about their bodies. It is important to provide a safe place for your children to communicate honestly, so they understand they will not get in trouble for sharing a secret with you.
  • Let your kids know it is okay for them to leave. Regardless of where your children are, they need to be able to feel comfortable. Teach them it is okay to leave a situation when they feel unsafe, or if they question someone else’s actions.
  • Establish a family code word. Your code, or safe word, can be twofold. For young children, this can help them identify which adults outside their family are safe. For example, this might apply if an unexpected change in scheduling occurs and another adult must care for your kids. Your children may be able to verify that person’s knowledge of their safe word before going anywhere with them. As your children get older, a code can help a teen save face while giving you the message that they want you to pick them up or remove them from an awkward situation.

Although you want to protect your children every hour of the day, their growth and development will often take them temporarily out of your care. However, teaching your children how to handle themselves in uncomfortable situations and letting them know they can come to you at any time, with any concern, may be invaluable.

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