As parents, we want nothing more than to keep our children safe. There are so many threats to children in the world, some of which we can’t even consider or aren’t aware of. That’s why teaching children to be safe is just so important.
Just one of many examples is pedestrian accidents that involve children. We all likely teach our children the basics of safely crossing the street, such as looking both ways. However, pedestrian accidents happen every day, and even adults are victims.
Children are more at risk, however, because research shows younger children struggle making perceptual decisions such as knowing when it’s actually is safe to cross a road.
Even when having an understanding of the risks our children face, you don’t want to have children who grow up being afraid or unnecessarily anxious. But at the same time teaching children to be safe is crucial. It can be a serious balancing act.
The following are some ways that you can balance teaching your children to be safe without making them anxious or overly fearful.
Give the Facts
In a quest to convey to our kids just how dangerous certain things are, such as inappropriate contact with strangers, we may try to exaggerate when we talk and teach about it.
Rather than doing that, it’s better to speak calmly, rationally and using only the straightforward facts of any given situation.
For example, when you’re teaching about so-called “stranger danger,” remember to teach your kids not to accept rides from anyone and that strangers can look like anyone. You should also reinforce the concept of consistency.
Many experts recommend first teaching children to know where to turn if something does happen, and how to deal with situations and trust their own instincts when they feel uncomfortable.
Role-playing may be useful, as well. With role-playing, there is the opportunity for kids to experience what they would do to protect themselves or leave a situation they feel is bad.
Essentially, when talking to children about possible risks and in particular, risks involving strangers, teach them to be logical and rational and rely on their instincts at the same time as much as they can.
All-too-frequently as parents, we will catastrophize things in our own minds and automatically jump to worst-case-scenarios, and that’s something that can color how we teach our children about safety.
Think realistically and also explain safety in real terms instead of talking to your children about the worst things that could happen to them.
Introduce Your Children to Different Experiences
While teaching your children to be safe and how to protect themselves in life, you also want them to experience different things. Try to introduce your kids to a broad array of experiences and situations, so they’re more comfortable and less anxious, but at the same time aware.
Maybe this means taking them on trips, or even just to different types of restaurants and places in your own city. Teach them to be comfortable in new places without sacrificing their safety.
Manage Your Reactions
As parents, it’s natural to feel a fair amount of anxiety, particularly when it comes to the safety of our children. That can show in our reactions to different situations, and that can then rub off on our kids.
For example, if we see our child with a knife in their hand, we might immediately show them a sense of panic, but rather than doing that, take it as an opportunity to tell your child why it’s not safe in a calm, reasonable way.
Showing our kids extreme fear and panic doesn’t make them safer but instead teaches them to be equally anxiety-ridden.
Work On Self-Regulation
If you feel that your child could have issues with anxiety and extreme fear, along with teaching them how to be safe, you might also consider working with them on self-regulation.
Self-regulation is a valuable skill for all of us, but it can also take time to develop throughout childhood. When you self-regulate, it allows you to manage your feelings and emotions in a healthy, appropriate way.
You can also help your children express their worries or concerns in healthy ways. For example, encourage them to talk to you or to draw or act out things that scare them and then discuss them.
Finally, if you do have concerns about your child’s fears and the potential they could be out-of-proportion for different situations, you might speak with your doctor.
If a child does struggle with an anxiety disorder, it can be helpful to intervene early on to prevent it from growing the situation from growing in severity.
Do you find it hard getting the balance right in teaching your children to be safe without making them scared? Do share in a comment below.
*This is a collaborative post