I was getting my children ready for bed, when it had dawned on me just how precious these moments are, and I couldn’t help but get all emotional. After the Connecticut shooting that had tragically happened last week, as a mom and a teacher, this had really hit close to home. I have cried, as I am sure most of us have, just thinking that this could have happened anywhere, to anyone. I pray that no parent ever has to go through another tragedy like this one, but more so than that, I pray that our children are kept safe from all bad things, but bad things happen every day.
There is no true place to hide and feel safe from all dangers. Our world is a dangerous place where even crossing the street and walking home, could just easily become a tragedy. And so I pose the question, as parents, how do we protect our children from harm? We can’t lock them in our homes and prevent them from growing up, or bubble wrap them every time they let go of our hand. The only thing we can do is teach them to be aware of dangers, be strong individuals, and to trust us, their parents, and come to us whenever they need to. The best way to do this is by talking to our children, even when they are toddlers. Here are some suggestive topics that you may want to start having conversations about.
Talk to them about Their Day – This can begin as early as they are able to talk. We talk to our three year old, Alyssa, about her day, every day. I think it is such a wonderful routine to instill in the family. It creates an awesome bond, and it makes your child feel like they are important and being heard. We usually do this right after we pick her up from daycare, or if we had had a family outing. We talk to her about what and who she saw and what she liked the most about her day. As our children grow, this routine of talking about their day should continue, especially into their teenage years when they face a lot of social challenges. Knowing about what’s going on in a child’s life, who their friends are, their feelings, are all important for parents to know, so that we can intervene if necessary.
Being Aware of surroundings – Even when they are really small, teaching them to pay attention to where they are, and what they are doing can really help them be more alert of potential dangers. We won’t always be there to look around for danger signs, they have to learn to do it on their own, and the earlier they start practicing to do this, the better they will be at it later on. For instance, even though Alyssa may be too small to cross the street by herself, we started teaching her to look both ways along with us when we cross. We point out cars and people, so that she understands what is around her and avoid potential dangerous obstacles. This not only may help our children be more alert, but may also create a stronger instinct to dangers and how to avoid them.
Strangers and Private Parts – This is a conversation that my doctor had recommended for us to have with Alyssa when she had turned three. We have conversations about strangers all the time now, we also tell her about her private parts, that they belong to her, and no one else should see them or touch them. When we had first brought these topics up with her, she didn’t really get it. But the more conversations we had about them, the more she understood what they meant and now recognizes that strangers can be dangerous, and that her own private parts are her own. Again I stress that this should not be just one talk, but a series of conversation throughout.
Telling the truth – This is such an important conversation to have. Kids often forget this because they may be afraid or embarrassed of the truth, but we adults know that the more information we have, the more we are able to aid, protect or defend our kids from challenging situations. Creating a relationship with your child where they feel safe and comfortable to tell you things, even if it may make you upset or disappointed, is really vital. I remember my parents having this conversation with me and my brothers all the time, even in our teenage years, where we thought we could handle everything on our own. Telling my parents the truth about bad situations, had really saved us a lot more trouble, and I really appreciate that they had always encouraged us to feel comfortable going to them. The key message to get across is, we, the parents, will love them no matter what and should be first on their list of who to turn to whenever they need us the most.
Self Esteem – They may be small, but their self-image and self-esteem is a work in development, and if the foundation to how a child views themselves, is not set properly, it could be very difficult to re-establish later on in life. Feeling that you are special, beautiful and loved are so important in every single person’s life. Parents are the first people to set the tone and direction to their child’s self-esteem. Telling our children that we love them and that they are the most beautiful is not spoiling them, or turning them into narcissists. Rather it gives them confidence to like themselves and others and not to fall prey to depression, bullying, etc. These are very big issues that our teenagers face today, and have a hard time dealing with. We can really help our kids to avoid these problems later on in life, if we give them the confidence they need to be strong people.
I wish that there was a way that we can really protect our kids and prevent any harm from ever coming onto them. Unfortunately, no matter how much we try to prepare them for the world, sometimes this is not enough. But all we can do is do our best, love our children, and be there for them whenever they need us. To all parents, every moment that we spend with our children is precious and we should never take that for granted. So let’s hug them tighter, love them harder and enjoy every single moment that we have!