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Preparing Your Child for Today's World: 10 Tips for Teaching and Protecting Your Child
By Paula Statman, M.S.S.W.
How do you prepare your to child to navigate safely and confidently in the world, ready to deal with situations and people he or she may encounter? Here are 10 parenting tips to help make the journey a little more effective.
- Accept your role as your child's protector and teacher. The kinds of issues our children are expected to deal with today are complex and often dangerous. Problems like violence, bullying, and online predators are commonplace in their world. To protect your son or daughter's emotional and physical well-being, you must learn about these and other tough issues and develop the skills to discuss them effectively.
- Teach your child that he/she has the right to be safe. From the time your child understands words, instill in her the core belief that no one has the right to make her feel threatened or unsafe. This right is non-negotiable and is guaranteed by the United Nations/UNICEF Children's Protections Rights.
- Prepare - don't scare - your kids. It is easy to get overwhelmed with your worries about your child's safety. But, research shows that if you contaminate what you are trying to teach with your fears, your child won't remember your message, only that you were scared. Practice using moderate language and a matter-of-fact tone when you discuss sensitive issues. Focus on what your child needs to learn rather than why it upsets you. Share your fears and worries with other adults rather than your children.
- Help your child say 'no.' Did you say no to your parents? Do your kids say no to you? Whether or not you grew up with the right to set verbal boundaries with adults in authority, children need to be empowered with the right to say no to anyone who is acting inappropriately, regardless of their position or power. This is a first step in turning "nice" kids, who are compliant in most situations, in to "safe and strong" kids, who obey adults unless they feel confused or threatened.
- Teach your child to recognize, trust, and act on her instincts. Help your child respond quickly and self-protectively if he or she gets an inner signal that something is not right. It might be a voice in her head that says "Uh-oh, this isn't OK." Or maybe it's a feeling in the pit of his stomach. Regardless of how the warning alarm sounds, the important thing is that your child be taught to listen to it and not rationalizes a person's behavior or wait for the situation to escalate.
- Teach and model healthy boundaries in relationships. Beginning with body awareness in pre-school, children need to learn what a "respectful distance" looks and feels like. They also need to recognize if someone is ignoring their boundaries and what to do about it. The respect that you show for your children's physical and emotional space will set the tone for how they let others treat them.
- Protect, Prepare, Practice, Praise, and Preview. Use these steps to teach your child skills such as crossing the street safely, riding the bus, walking to school, basically any skill where his safety is at stake. The emphasize is on supervised practice, which allows you to gauge your child's progress and ensures that you don't give him a new privilege or responsibility before he is prepared to handle it successfully.
- Monitor your child. Protective parenting is not about hovering or being paranoid. It's about being a good observer, supervisor, and sometimes a detective. Listen to and watch your child. Be curious, involved, and ask questions. Notice any changes in her behavior or moods. You want to catch early signs of a budding problem rather than deal with a full-blown crisis.
- Cultivate your child's self esteem and desirable traits. Be strategic and enthusiastically praise glimpses of behavior that you want to see more of, such as using good judgment or acting responsibly. Your child or teen will pick up on your pleasure in watching him become trustworthy and responsible and will try harder to demonstrate those kinds of behaviors.
- Tell them you love them. In addition to expressing your love and appreciation when you feel proud of your child, be sure to express your love for no special reason or when the going gets tough. Kids who are loved unconditionally feel more worthwhile and are less vulnerable to mistreatment by others.
About the author:
Paula Statman, M.S.S.W. is an internationally respected educator, speaker and award-winning author. Her practical, positive approach to raising safe and strong children has benefited hundreds of thousands of parents. Paula is a repeat guest on Oprah and the Today Show, has appeared on over 200 radio and television programs, and is featured in publications such as Parents, Child, Redbook, and USA Today.com. The founder and director KidWISE Institute, Paula lives in Oakland, California with her husband and daughter. For more information visit www.kidwisecorner.com.
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