Irene van der Zande, Kidpower International Founder and Executive Director
1. Put Safety First. Kidpower’s core principle is, “The safety and healthy self-esteem of a child are more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense.” Child protection requires putting safety first.
2. Keep your radar on. Stay in charge of what is happening with your kids. Insist on all caregivers and professionals providing powerful, respectful adult leadership. Remember that people who are a danger to kids usually look and act very nice. Don’t let your kids be in places where you are not welcome. Drop in unexpectedly. Pay attention to your intuition. If you feel uncomfortable or your gut makes you worry that something might be wrong, insist on answers. Notice if someone seems to be singling your child out for special gifts or favors or time alone.
3. LISTEN to your children and teach them not to keep unsafe secrets. Problems, touch, gifts, favors, and activities should NOT be a secret. Ask occasionally in an interested, calm way, “Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that you haven’t told me?” Stay calm and caring when kids talk with you about problems so that they feel safe coming to you.
4. Make SURE Kids know you CARE. Don’t assume that a child knows. No matter how busy you are, tell young people often, “Your safety and well-being are very, VERY important to me. Even if I seem too busy, or you made a mistake, or someone we care about will be upset, or you feel embarrassed, if anything bothers you, I want to know. Please tell me and I will do everything in my power to help you.”
5. Don’t let kids throw stones. Intervene immediately so that you stop a child being unkind to another with the same determination that you would stop that child from throwing a rock through a window. Every adult in charge of children is responsible for ensuring that each child stays emotionally and physically safe and that this child acts safely and respectfully towards others. Model being firm, kind, and persistent when you intervene.
6. Assess your child and make Safety Plans. Assess realistically the capabilities and vulnerabilities of your child. Make a list of everywhere your child goes, what kinds of problems he might encounter, and how she would avoid the problem and get help if necessary. Before you let your child go anywhere without adult protection, make sure that your child is prepared with sufficient knowledge, skills, and life experience.
7. Prepare children to take charge of their safety by practicing skills. One quick action can stop most abuse and bullying – using your awareness, checking first, moving away from trouble, acting confident, pushing someone’s hand away, ordering someone to stop, leaving as soon as you can, resisting emotional coercion, and being persistent in telling until you get help. Kids are more likely to be able to take actions like these when they need to if they understand their safety rules and have the chance to rehearse using these skills in a fun, age-appropriate way.
Not sure HOW to do this? Our Safety Comics series for younger children, older children and teens/adults provide entertaining and useful tools for introducing and practicing “People Safety” rules and skills. Since 1989, Kidpower International has protected over 2.5 million children, teens, and adults, including those with special needs, from bullying, violence, and abuse through empowering people with knowledge and skills. For information about workshops and consulting in Colorado, visit www.kidpowercs.org. For our extensive free online library, services in other locations, and books, visit www.kidpower.org