Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti and Safety

In California, earthquake preparedness is a must! We are sitting on a major fault – so we prepare. We all remember the Northridge quake in 1994 – which was a 6.8 magnitude – and caused enormous damage in the Southland. I know you feel, as I do, incredible sympathy for the humanitarian catastrophe that has happened in Haiti (see below for ways you can help). This tragic event has me thinking about safety and preparedness.

It strikes me as so interesting that earthquake safety drills are given to our kindergartners (in fact children of all ages through high-school), as a regular practice. Why? Because we know an earthquake is bound to happen so we want our kids to be educated and ready. But why don’t we prepare our kids to be wary of sexual abuse? It is a fact that child sexual assault happens – why are we afraid or reluctant to prepare our kids to be savvy and safe? Is it because a drill (stop, drop and roll) where you flee under your desk is less upsetting then talking about scary predators? It’s the same concept: prepare them!

The key to keeping such talks from being scary is for parents to assume that body/personal safety discussions are not scary! Just because we, as adults, are terrified of what we know about “the world out there,” we don’t have to convey our fears to our children.

I am not suggesting that parents need to tell their kids the gruesome details of every case in the news, or pound statistics into their heads. But youngsters need to have a solid understanding of specific safety skills appropriate to their age and their own personal level of understanding.

When it’s time to discuss sexual abuse, the best way to combat the fear associated with such talks is to just start the discussion! It’s never too early to begin giving children information that can help them stay safe. Treat personal safety like any other parenting lesson: find appropriate times, don’t tackle too many lessons at a time, and consider the child’s own level of development and understanding.

Have the conversation!

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