Our main job as parents is to keep our kids safe and ensure they grow up to be contributing members to society. But there are often a few bumps along the way when we’re trying to find the balance between allowing them to spread their wings and still keeping tabs on them.
The Role of Trust
Aside from giving kids more freedom at age-appropriate intervals, the role of trust in the parent-child relationship is the biggest key to becoming aware of any warning signs of danger in their life. If your child trusts you enough to tell you anything that seems odd or scares them, you’ll have a better opportunity to advise them and see dangerous situations that need to be addressed.
On the same note, if you trust your child to tell you what’s going on in their life, you’ll rest easier knowing who they’re interacting with outside of home and what they’re really doing when they’re not with you.
Make Sure You’re Both Aware of Dangers
Having a heart-to-heart with your kids about the dangers around them, or potential dangers, will help them to understand why you’re so concerned and involved in what they’re doing. If they can see why you’re hammering them with questions about who, what, when and where, it will feel less like nagging and more like what it is – genuine concern for their safety.
Explain to your kids about the dangers of leaving you in a public place, going somewhere with strangers, being aware of their surroundings, and even interacting with new people online (if they’ve reached that age bracket).
Balancing Freedom and Control
As your child gets older, you’ll need to learn to let go little by little so they have the opportunity to develop into well-rounded adults. At the same time, you’ll need to establish boundaries and maintain at least some control over where they’re going and who they’re spending time with. This balance should gradually gear more toward freedom and less control the older they get, and reining in their freedoms in the event of your child violating your trust or other bad behavior is an ideal punishment for older kids.
There is no right age for any privilege that your child may be asking for – everything from play dates to getting their own cell phone should be granted on a case-by-case basis, depending upon your own child’s level of maturity and responsibility.
Safety in Real and Virtual Space
The subject of safety spans a wide variety of subjects, from road safety for parents when their children are in car seats to preventing child abduction and communicating with strangers online. Explain to your kids why you want them near you at all times in public, and tell them why they shouldn’t go somewhere with a stranger. If they understand the risk of being abducted or taken advantage of is real, they will likely be more apt to obey and follow your rules.
These explanations should be age-appropriate, of course – such as explaining to your toddler why she can’t remove her harness belt while she’s in the car. Make sure your children know what type of physical contact from another person is acceptable and what is not, and that they should tell you immediately if something happens that they aren’t comfortable with.
When your children are old enough to have access to the Internet and social media, it’s vital to have conversations about protecting their identity and only conversing online with people they know in real life. Monitoring their activity and the apps or gadgets they are using to connect with other people on a regular basis will also give you peace of mind about what they’re using it for. And don’t be afraid to limit Internet use or eliminate it completely if they aren’t giving you access or following your online rules.
Keeping your kids safe is an ever-changing balancing act between controlling their every move and trying to educate them on the dangers they may face in the real and virtual world. You’ll have to consider each child individually and make sure their level of freedom is cohesive to their maturity level and age, as well as your personal comfort level.
Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.