Written by 15:49 Parenting

Tips for Parents to Keep Their Kids Safe from Abuse Over Summer Break

By Dr. Shani Verschleiser, Founder of MagenU

Summer break is a wonderful time for children to rest, recharge, have fun and experience new things they don’t have time for during the school year. It’s also a time of slightly reduced supervision for many kids. Whether they’re at summer camp, playing far from their parents’ reach at the park or off on a playdate with a friend, parents may not always have as firm of a grasp on their children’s exact location or activity status.  These potential new experiences are a great chance to review safety rules and apply some new ones.  

This sort of increased independence is vitally important to a child’s growth but must come with proper preparation and clearly established guidelines from parents, as kids may exposed to new potential offenders within new conditions that parents may not have taught their kids how to navigate yet. Even if your children spend the summer surrounded by peers and adults that you trust, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of child abuse cases come from someone that the child knows and trusts, rather than a nefarious stranger.

Kids Summer Break Tips for Parents

Parents must be delicately-but-directly have important conversations with their children about what red flags they need to be on the lookout for and when to come to their parents with uncomfortable information. It may seem like too difficult a conversation to have, especially with younger children, but the most effective way to handle child abuse is to prevent it. This means digging deeper than a general conversation with your kids about their comfort and personal space; they’ll safest if you work to truly educate them on their safety.

1. Know Your Child’s “Body Safety Rules”

Children learn new things about socialization and interactions with others every day. So, they may not completely clear on what constitutes normal, friendly, harmless touching and what is nefarious touching that crosses the line. Work with your child to define what kind of touch is appropriate and what kind of touch goes too far and violates their “Body Safety Rules.” This way, there will no mistaking what is and is not acceptable.

2. Explain that “Tricky People” Might Try to Violate Your “Body Safety Rules” & More

Teach your child that a clear way to discern whether someone they’re interacting with is “tricky” is if they attempt to get your child to break a safety rule including their “Body Safety Rules”  No adult who violates their “Body Safety Rules” does so by accident.

3. Assure Children They’ll Never Get in Trouble for Coming to You with Information

An adult who is behaving inappropriately with your child might tell them that they can never tell their parents about what they’re doing, because they may both get in trouble. If this is a person your child knows and trusts, they may feel guilty about getting them in trouble and certainly don’t want to get themselves in trouble too. This is a common tactic to keep kids from ever coming forward with information about their abuse.

Parents must make it explicitly clear to their children that they will never get in trouble for coming to them with information that may upsetting or uncomfortable. If a child worries that their information could cause problems for themselves or a loved one, they’ll likely try to keep it to themselves.

4. Teach your children how to confidently but carefully exit uncomfortable or dangerous situations

Removing oneself from a tricky or uncomfortable situation is a difficult task for many children. They seldom see these instances coming and are often paralyzed by fear or confusion when they arise. Although it is very difficult, parents must speak with their children about these situations and work with them to develop a plan on how to confidently navigate their way out of them, should they ever come up.

Gently but directly take them through scenarios they may find themselves in and practice what they need to say and do to safely exit these situations.  Most importantly let your child know that if they can’t get away it is not their fault and you will always love them and believe them no matter what.  

5. Children should trust their gut: if they feel uncomfortable, there’s a reason for it

Even if a child is uncomfortable during an interaction with an adult, especially one they know and trust, they may feel compelled to endure the situation, in an attempt to polite. Parents need to make it abundantly clear to their children that they need to trust their gut in situations like this: if they feel uncomfortable, there is likely a good reason for it and they should carefully exit the situation as quickly as they can and inform the nearest trusted adult. They should never put themselves at risk by staying in a potentially dangerous situation out of deference to an adult’s feelings.

6. Trusted adults won’t ask kids to keep secrets

If an adult asks a child to keep something they’ve told them or done with them a complete secret, never to be revealed to anyone, it could very well be something nefarious that the child’s needs to know about right away. Parents need to make a clear delineation between “secrets” and “surprises.” A surprise is often something fun that will be revealed sometime shortly, but a secret that is never meant to be spoken about could tied to something much more sinister.

 7. Always stay with a “buddy”

The “buddy system” is a concept that’s been around forever, because it works. When kids, especially older ones, are out and about in the summertime, they should always stick with a trusted buddy. If at any point they are separated from their buddy or they end up on their own, it’s time for them to find or contact a parent or the nearest trusted adult.

8. Don’t go anywhere without informing your parent or guardian

As kids get older, they may want to pack their summer days with all sorts of different activities that may take them to various nearby locations. Parents need to make it clear to their children that they should never leave one location in favor of another without asking permission or informing them or the trusted adult in charge. Even as your child grows older and exerts more independence, you should always aware of where they are when they’re out of the house.

9. Understanding when a trusted adult can no longer trusted

Because a majority of child abuse cases come from known and trusted figures in a child’s life, it’s important that your kids understand when they should discard their trust in someone. A truly trustworthy adult will always respect and believe a child’s feelings and experiences when they come to them with distressing information.

If a seemingly-trustworthy adult does not grant this respect to your children or actively behaves in ways that make them uncomfortable or violate their Body Safety Rules, your child should internally flag the person as no longer trustworthy and inform their parents.

10. Safest kind of stranger is a grown woman with children

In the hopefully-unlikely event your child is without a parent or guardian and needs adult assistance amid a precarious situation, they should know that the best kind of stranger to approach for help is a woman who is with children. These strangers are their best bet in finding someone who will understanding of their issues and can help handle them.  

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