I was surprised when I gave my child a hypothetical question about his safety. Here are 5 questions to keep your child safe and review what she should do.
My six-year-old and I were home in the afternoon. I was getting something in my bedroom while he stayed in the kitchen. Then I heard it—what I thought was the door opening and closing.
“Did someone open the door?” I asked him when I came back. I usually lock the door but you never know sometimes.
“No,” he replied. Still, I imagined all sorts of random people opening the door with me not knowing. And it made me ask him…
“What would you do if someone you sort of knew, like… the delivery man. What if he asked you to come outside because he wanted to show you something?”
And he said, “I would go.”
Just like that, I knew I a conversation was needed.
Because it’s easy to assume our kids would know what to do in certain situations. But asking outright is the only way to gauge how their minds are thinking and what they assume. The hypothetical delivery man luring him outside was an eye-opener for me.
I explained he shouldn’t ever leave the house or go with anyone. No matter how nice they are or if they’re asking for help. I said he should tell me first if it’s important.
“What if” scenarios to ask to keep your child safe
I thought of other scenarios and questions I should ask my child, and I came up with these.
“What would you do if you got lost at [the grocery]?”
We were at the grocery when I noticed my son wandering off. At one point, he was so distracted he started following another man, thinking he was his dad. Scary to think how kids can get lost, so I asked him what he would do if he got lost at the grocery.
It’s good to review with your kids scenarios on getting lost. I even recommend doing a quick run through when you arrive at a crowded, like a museum. I told my son that if he got lost, he should:
- Stay put as long as possible
- Ask for help from people who look like they work there. (It’s a good idea to describe what that means, such as “People who have a name tag on their shirts”)
- If he can’t find anyone who works there, ask someone who looks like a mom
- Not go with anyone, no matter what they say (“Your mom told me to take you to her”). Or who they are (even the mom can help him out without him having to go with her).
“What would you do if someone told you to keep a secret?”
A few of our readers told me a great suggestion about secrets. They’d said to differentiate between “secrets” and “surprises.” Don’t say, “Don’t tell daddy we’re having a birthday party for him—it’s a secret.” Say it’s a “surprise” instead.
Your child shouldn’t keep secrets from you. She can have surprises for you, such as gifts she makes in school. But anyone who tells her to keep things a secret should be her telltale sign that she should tell you right away.
“What would you do if someone massaged or tickled you too long?”
At this age, my son knows all about private parts and that no one’s allowed to touch them at all. Unfortunately, child predators usually don’t go straight for the private parts. Instead, they groom kids. Sometimes it all starts with something innocent as a massage or a rough tickle-fest.
It’s important to talk about private parts, but you should also discuss boundaries. Someone massaging your child too long can be inappropriate. Same goes for anything that seems awkward or crossing the line. An adult asking her to kiss him for a long time. Tickling when she’s had enough.
“What would you do in an earthquake?”
Here in California, earthquake safety is high on the list. You can substitute other scenarios that need quick thinking on your child’s part.
I’ve asked my son what he’d do in an earthquake, and thanks to talking about it, he knows what to do. We point out the safest places in a particular room to duck under (the dining room table, or next to his bed). We also review what to do while it’s going on, and the next steps after the earthquake has finished.
I don’t mean to scare him. They’re hypothetical but likely scenarios I want to talk about to make them seem normal. I know he’ll feel scared if a big one hits, but at least it won’t be the first time he knows about it.
“What would you do if [someone familiar] asked you to follow him somewhere?”
This was the question I asked my son that day when I wondered what he’d do in that situation. Unfortunately, child predators aren’t those creepy looking strangers lurking in the dark. They’re the friendly guy who tries to earn your trust. While I’m all about being friendly, you can’t assume everyone has good intentions, either.
The best thing for your child to do is to go to you and stay put. If she can’t, she should yell as loud as she can. And no one should force her to do anything or go anywhere without you.
The good news is that it’s unlikely a delivery man will lure my kids out of our home. They probably won’t get lost at the grocery, and the earthquakes we’ve had have all been mild.
Still. Best to talk with your child, especially as you see the opportunity to talk about it. Ask her questions to gauge what she’s thinking. Then, correct her hypothetical responses if they’re not the safest.
It’s scary to think our kids would be in these situations. And sadly, nothing can guarantee against all harm. But she can be better prepared because you’ve planted the seeds of what to do should anything happen.
Get more tips here:
- Should Parents Post Pictures of Their Naked Kids Online?
- 7 Smart Ways to Protect Your Child from Predators
- Would You Use a Nanny Cam?
- 6 Mistakes Parents Make When Socializing Your Child
- 3 Reasons Your Child Doesn’t Have to Hug Everyone
Tell me in the comments: What other scenarios could you think of to ask your child? What safety questions have you discussed?
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