Like you, I’m sure, I’ve been horrified at the emerging story about the ‘roast busters‘ here in New Zealand. It seems like every day, there’s a more horrifying dimension to the story – from the attitude of the offenders to the inaction of the police. I’m mum to three girls and the thought of them being exposed to this kind of experience is almost too awful to contemplate. Right now, I’ve been thinking about ways that I can help my daughters stay safe out there.
Let me be clear here: I certainly don’t want to give any idea that the girls are to blame for the actions of these predatory young men. The responsibility is the offenders’ and theirs alone. But I know that as my girls grow older, I’ll be talking to them about ways to protect themselves from such devastating experiences. Here are some of the things we’ll be talking about:
- Where they are going and who they are going with. As children get older, this gets harder and harder but don’t be afraid to push your children on this one. I’ve heard wise people say that they always offer to drop off / pick up their children from parties. It’s a drag, especially if it’s late at night, but it’s an excellent way to maintain a connection with your children at a potentially vulnerable moment.
- What to do if you feel uncomfortable. Teenagers get themselves into lots of situations that they don’t really mean to get into and it’s essential to have an ‘escape plan’. Just as you do for fire when they are small, help your kids to have a plan to get out of trouble. This could include:
- A ‘code word’ – if they call and use the code word, you know that they need help. It can be a way of asking for help in front of others and saving face in front of their friends
- A safe place or person to go to
- Alternative people to call if mum or dad are unavailable / inaccessible
- Some emergency money
- A bit of basic self-defense – vulnerable body parts and lots of noise!
- Safety online. Oh this is such a big one these days and I’ll write more about it soon! In the meantime, you can read more on our site about internet safety. However, I think it’s really important to talk to your children about the fact that today’s digital world is a potentially permanent record of things that they may not like recorded.
- Encourage your children to think hard about the image that they portray online and how they might feel about a potential employer seeing this sometime in the future.
- Consider helping your children use a fake name for interacting on the Internet. This will mean that when people are searching their real name, their awkward moments can’t be seen.
- Follow basic Internet safety rules that include:
- Don’t ‘friend’ anyone who you don’t know in real life
- Un-friend anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable
- Never give out your address / phone number / email address over the Internet unless you are sure you know the person you are giving it to
- Tell an adult if something happens that you are uncomfortable with.
This has been a huge story in our media over the last week or so and I’m sure that many parents, as I am, are feeling scared and vulnerable for their children. Of course, the VERY BEST THING that we can all do, is keep talking to our kids. Keep the lines of communication open and always make sure your kids know how much you love them. That’s what I’ll be working on with my tribe this week.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ll be talking to your kids to help them stay safe.