Director of Parent Engagement
Children's Musem of Richmond
It’s hard to hear a news report about a child being taken advantage of or harmed, and when it comes down to it, our job as parents is to prepare children for the world. From day one, we know that our goal is to give each child the tools he or she will need to leave the safety of home, and embark on his or her own adventure.
We know there will be challenges – bumps on the head, falling on the playground, poor choices, bad grades, missed opportunities – but it’s the unpredictable events that scare us the most. We might feel like there aren’t any options to protect our children against the mean people - a bully, a sexual predator, or a drug dealer - other than locking our children up in the house. Here’s the good new: there are actually multiple factors to keeping our children safe.
A safe and secure place to call home - One of the most important factors is creating a safe environment for your child, regardless of where you live. It doesn’t matter the size of your space, the neighborhood you live in, or the amount of money you have in the bank. It’s what happens in your little corner of the world that matters.
Consistency and predictability – The world outside of the house may not be predictable, but the world inside the house is consistent and unambiguous. There are boundaries. There are limits. There are rules.
Mistakes and opportunities – By opening ourselves up to acceptance of mistakes, a child will feel less ashamed, and less fearful about admitting a mistake. When children (or adults for that matter!) admit mistakes, repeating that same mistake is less likely.
Honesty and integrity – Demonstrate courage to your children by respecting honesty, especially when it is most difficult. Children need to know how to tell the difference between deception for malicious reasons and good-natured fun.
Self-respect - Standing up to others (including your parents) in a firm, yet amicable way is crucial to self-protection. Children need to practice standing up for themselves when it is safe to do so, and when the outcomes are fairly predictable, so that they are ready when outcomes are less predictable.
By showing them what it means to be safe, and how to live in a culture of respect, they may be more likely to resist the subtle signals that bullies, predators and drug dealers send out when looking for victims. By teaching them negotiation, problem solving, and conflict resolution, you have armed them with the necessary tools to navigate the complex world we face.
Even though the news can scare the pants off of us, we’ve got to overcome our fear, and impart self-protective skills. You can do this - I know you can!