Denial: Enemy Number One
First off, Gavin says it's never in your or your child's best interest to ignore uneasy feelings about people or situations. Suspicion, apprehension, hesitation and fear are nature's signals that you or your child is in the presence of danger. Gavin says intuition is always right in at least two ways: it's always based on something, and it has your best interests at heart. Unfortunately, intuition's opposite is something we all engage in far too often. Denial. Gavin calls it "the number one enemy to our children's safety."
Teach your children to honor their fear and intuition. All children are born with intuition, but they must learn to recognize and honor their fears. When a child tells you he orshe is uncomfortable, it's important to listen.
Every Square Mile
Worry is "a great distraction" to true safety, according to Gavin, because parents too often worry about the wrong things. Strangers, crossing the street and kidnapping are all real fears, but all are far less than likely to happen to a child than sexual molestation by someone who's known to you. Let your child know that you will never send someone else to pick them up without telling him or her first. Children must know that they should never let anyone take them to a second location without your permission.
Looking for Footprints
To protect your child from sexual predators, Gavin recommends being as suspicious of people you know as you would be of an unkempt man hanging around a park. Always be willing to listen to your instinct that something isn't right. And be aware of what Gavin calls "footprints": your child always planning to be with a particular adult, your child speaking frequently of one particular adult or that adult creating opportunities to be alone with your child. A sexual predator needs privacy and control, Gavin says. Be extremely selective about who enjoys these two privileges with your children.
Talk to Strangers
Gavin believes one of the great parenting myths is to teach children not to talk to strangers. Teaching your child that stranger equals danger and that friend equals safe teaches children that anyone who isn't a stranger is automatically safe, which is not always true. The fact is, children will talk to strangers anyway, and they need to be able to discern those who are dangerous from those who aren't. Gavin uses the example of one mother who encouraged her 7-year-old to select strangers to ask for directions while she supervised and then spoke with him afterward about their reactions to him and how he felt. "That little boy knows something about the way human beings behave," Gavin said.
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