Parenting young children — 07 November 2010
How to teach your young children to be safe

Many parents of young children (3-10 years old) are concerned about teaching their children about the world’s dangers without causing them undue stress and fears. Some parents are not sure at what age to begin, how to best articulate it in order to safeguard their children’s innocence and appropriate trust in adults.

Parents are often implored to “talk to their children” explain risks and dangers in a calm way and reassure them that they are loved and safe. Though these recommendations are sound, they leave most parents unskilled in the tools for best delivery and the alleviation of their children’s fears.

Here are some examples of confusing edicts that children may or may not understand well enough to use effectively: “ Don’t talk to strangers.” How does a young child process the concept of “strangers”? Is the new teacher a stranger? Is a mother of a child in his class a stranger? What do strangers look like and how is the child to know who is or is not a stranger?

“Don’t let anyone but Mom, Dad or a doctor touch your body,” What is a young child to do if he/she is hurt and the school nurse tends to the injury? How can a child not let anyone touch him/her after the fact?

“Don’t pay attention to the child who calls you names or is mean to you, he is just not a nice child.” Don’t pay attention to personal hurts and insults? Is this a healthy lesson we want to teach our children?

“Listen to adults,” “ Be helpful.” How can a child adopt these messages and know that a certain adult who solicits his/her assistance in looking for a lost puppy is not to be helped?

Children are also not always attentive enough or remember what they have been told to do at any particular situation. They react naturally with trust and naivety, that may become hazardous to their well-being.

We are fortunate to have in Santa Cruz, Irene van der Zande, the creator of KIDPOWER TEENPOWER FULLPOWER International, an organization that “teaches people of all ages and abilities how to stay safe, act wisely and believe in themselves.”
These programs are now taught with great success throughout the world.

KIDPOWER also produced “Safety Comics For Adults with Younger Children,” to help parents teach children safety and personal empowerment through pictorial images that are memory joggers.

For more information about workshops, publications and a free e newsletter regarding teaching children how to be safe and become more aware and confident, consult

Irene Van de Zande suggests:
• The best way to teach children about safety is through fun instructions instead of fear inducing edicts.
• Children learn best through practice rather than being told what to do.
• Creating safety for children begins with the love of attentive and instructive parents who respect their children.
• Children also benefit when reassured about their fears and worries.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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