Last week, some school going children started to go back home for holidays. The remaining ones are expected to go this week. Much as the school holiday is a joyous time, it’s also a time where parents, guardians, caretakers, local leaders need to be extra-cautious about the safety of children in their homes, in the neighborhood, as they go traveling and visiting etc.
Therefore, as the holidays begin, it’s important to remember, that protecting children is a priority. Here are some of the holiday tips to help parents, guardians and concerned citizens.
- Discuss boundaries. During the holidays, there are additional friends and family members and some may want to hug your child, play, tickle and have your child sit on their lap. Empower your children to say NO to unwanted touches, pictures, favors etc by adults or other children (Be sure to tell your child how other children may do things that are inappropriate or safe).
- If your child (or any other child in your life says “NO” or “STOP”, their decision or boundary, should be respected.
- Pay attention to signs of Child Abuse. Many times, adults disregard feelings from children, especially when a family member or trusted friend or someone they think could never harm their child, is accused by the Child-victim. The truth is that 90% of children are sexually abused by someone they and the family knows well and 70% by a family member.
Additionally, abuse can happen at the hands of another child, so be alert to relationships and activities between children.
Remember your child depends on you to keep them safe. If something is not right, ask questions, check-back and follow-up. You owe it to your child, to pay attention and take action, if you feel or know something is not right.
- Teach your children to avoid keeping secrets. Secrets are often the way abusers keep children silent. Claiming its their little secret. Explain to children that secrets are usually about something unsafe or bad. Remind your child that if anyone, an adult or another child, ever asks them to keep a secret, they should tell your or a safe adult right away.
- Limit one-on-one situations
Alone-time between your child and another adult should be limited, if possible. Try to look for opportunities where that time is interruptible and observable, drop home unannounced, and interview your children when you return home. About 80% of sexual abuse occurs in one adult-one child situations. Therefore, eliminate or minimize the situations, to help protect your child. One-on-one time between children can also provide an opportunity for inappropriate behaviors. At least 30% of all child sexual abuse cases are by a child, instead of an adult. Its therefore, important to monitor these situations well.
The key is early and ongoing communication, a two-way communication, where your child feels like they can come to you and ask questions. Parents must ensure the environment and the relationship is conducive to this happening.
- Manage your stress as parents
- Sometimes, the increased commitment and financial demands, impact on families during holidays leading to short tempers and possibly physical abuse of a child. It is advised to take a breather (some sort of time out for adults), to de-stress and calm down, when you feel out of control, call a friend and ask for support, etc.
- Keep track of when you are out of the home. Talk to your children before a family trip or outing, to keep within your reach, observable distance. And if they are lost, or separated, they should look for a “safe stranger” like a mum with children, a security guard. They should never leave a place until you are re-united.
Establish the “check first” rule with older children; before going anywhere to play, visit, shop etc. predators are known to look for unsupervised children.
- . Discuss age – appropriate safety issues with your child, in a calm, non-fearful manner. Let your child know that it is not what people look like that males them unsafe but what they ask a child to do.
- . Make sure your child knows your cell phone number.
As the Joint Security Agencies, we wish your child and your entire family, a safe and happy school holiday.