By Daniel Morcombe Foundation
Parents have an essential role in reinforcing the messages being delivered in the schools. The Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum and other safety curriculum are taught in many schools across Australia. Children are not responsible for their own safety, however, they can learn clear safety messages and skills from programs. Children who receive positive safety messages at school and at home are more likely to develop protective skills and less likely to experience sexual abuse.
When your child participates in child safety lessons at school it is hoped that they will want to talk about safety issues and ask questions. The following tips can assist you.
1. ASK YOUR CHILD WHAT THEY HAVE LEARNT ABOUT SAFETY
Asking what your child has been learning is a great way to start talking and will help you gauge their understanding. Some lessons include a take home worksheet or postcard with key safety messages. These take homes inform families about what is being discussed in school and sometimes provide prompt discussion suggestions for at home. Finding out what your child knows about safety helps you to build on that knowledge and make it relevant to your home and family. Encourage regular discussions with your child about these safety messages. Child safety is not a one off chat. Show your child that you are interested and comfortable talking with them about safety. Give them opportunities to raise concerns and ask about things that they might be thinking about. Open communication with your child about being safe is a strong protective factor.
2. TEACHABLE MOMENTS
Often opportunities or ‘teachable moments’ arise in our daily lives that can be used to start a discussion or are useful for considering recognise, react and report strategies. For example:
- a television show about surf lifesavers could lead to a discussion about water safety
- using a zebra crossing could lead to a conversation about how to safely cross the road
- planning what your child should do if you are late collecting them from the pick-up zone
- giving advice on how to answer the phone or front door
- a news story about personal safety can be a great way to encourage your child to talk with you including about things that make them scared, worried or embarrassed.
By talking about safety in everyday situations, you will help your child to build knowledge and develop skills to recognise, react and report if they are in an unsafe situation. Sometimes it is good to talk with your child when you are in the car together and when you are being active together. This gives you both a chance to talk in a more relaxed way and make being safe conversations part of normal activities.
3. DISCUSS ‘WHAT IFS…’
Whilst you cannot predict when your child may find themselves in an unsafe situation, speaking with them about what they could do in a variety of situations can help them to be prepared. Using ‘What if…’ questions for a range of safety situations is useful. For example, ‘What if…’
- there was a fire in the house?
- they get lost at the local shopping centre?
- they access or get shown ‘rude’ or ‘nude’ pictures online?
- an adult asks them to help search for a lost dog?
- someone they think is cute asks them for a kiss?
4. ANSWERING QUESTIONS
If you are uncomfortable talking about a topic, be honest. Say that you feel embarrassed and that you still want to talk about the topic because it is important. Remember, parents don’t have to know all the answers. If you are unsure of the answer to a question, be honest and then find out together. What is most important is that your child knows they can approach you if they have a question about safety, relationships and feelings now and always. It is amazing how confident and comfortable you and your child can feel when you talk honestly and openly about how much you care and want to look after each other.
If your child does talk to you about a time they have felt unsafe, in particular if they talk about sexual abuse, you can help by not panicking. Just listen, thank them for telling you and emphasising that they have not done anything wrong. Talk with them about getting help in an appropriate manner and that it is your job to help care for them. For more support call your local children’s department or Parentline on 1300 30 1300.
The Daniel Morcombe Foundation is hosting the annual “Day for Daniel” on Friday October 27. This is the largest child safety awareness day in Australia. Over 1 million people, including 3,000 schools across Australia are expected to participate in 2017.
The theme of the day is Wear Red, Educate and Donate and for the first time – Australia’s biggest online child safety lesson. It will be broadcast online by Daniel’s parents, Denise and Bruce Morcombe.