Just thinking about writing my experience with this subject matter, gives me the heebie jeebies. My heart is racing and my body stiffens. But this is one of those important matters that are uncomfortable at best, necessary at the very least, scary for all of us, yet could save a life that may be our own child’s.
Please know, as you read this, that these are my wisdoms in this growing area of violence with children. You may not agree with all that I say. Please take what you think will work for you and your family, and leave the rest. We have seen this in action. It DOES work. Thank you for reading this and please pass it on if you feel it will help someone.
As parents, grandparents and caregivers, I believe, we must be brave and tell the facts in a way that children can best understand,and to me, that is through encouraging them with the tools they already have, and encouraging their own bravery in a way they will be able to remember, if they ever have to take these tools out of their young minded tool box and put them into fast action.
Maybe you are playing with your little one in the sandbox. Maybe you are going for a walk, looking for bugs, or cool rocks. I believe nature is a great cozy cushion, that fosters deeper listening and atunes all of us to be present and focus more clearly. This is the setting that I recommend for this kind of conversation.
As an early childhood educator for over 2o years, I have learned that children listen best, if you tell them FIRST what is going to happen. For example: “Joey there are some things I want us to talk about now that are going to give you some extra special tools to add to your toolbox of life. You may even want to reference their favorite Super Heroes….from Frozen….Batman, Peter Pan,etc. Ask them to remind you of their fave character and why they like them. This will give you information. Many a time they remark about how their hero saves others. Then I begin the conversation with, “You know sometimes Joey, we can be our own Super Hero. Let me tell you how..”
This is how I explained it to my 4 year old who is now almost 27. It came into use for him when he was 11 years old.
Joey can you picture yourself having fun on the playground? What would you be doing? Oh that sounds like great fun! Now lets pretend that you were running around and having so much fun, that you didn’t notice the big hole that was in the grassy part of the playground and you fell down into it. What tools do you already have that would help you get out? What would you do to get out?
This interactive kind of conversation is so important as it gives you information as to what tools they know they already have …a baseline for you to proceed from , as well as it encourages their own self esteem to say it out loud. They most likely will say, they would yell for help and try to climb out, which is GREAT! So you want to encourage that by taking it to a slightly higher level. “Yes…you may have to scream really loud so other people can hear you right? What could you be doing with your hands and feet to try to help you get out?” This visual infuses into their minds eye, for possible later use. You can add silliness to this…You may even want to stand up and act it out. Both of you wriggle your body around and pretend you are climbing,up up up….
So now you have set the stage for safety, as well as a possible scary situation, and turned it into positive action they can take with the tools they already have and you have described it as an adventure.
Here comes the transition. “Well Joey, you are such a great Super Hero for yourself! You would do all the right things to climb out of that rabbit hole. Hooray!
“Now I want you to know, that sometimes in this world there are people out there that hear some loud voices in their head. They really want to make the loud voices stop, and sometimes they think that being mean to other people, will make the voices stop. Sometimes they try to do mean things, just like the villians in some of the stories we have seen in the movies, and on TV. Sometimes they will grab other people and try to take them away.
If this ever happened to you, what do you think you could do to get away and be your own Super Hero? Listening and acknowledging their answers is really important here and then you can add things like…”Yes! Screaming for help as loud as you can is a GREAT idea! Just like you would do if you fell down the rabbit hole! Yes! Wriggling your body all over to get away is excellant! Now you know I have told you it’s not nice to bite your friends, but if someone is being really mean to you and trying to take you somewhere you don’t want to go, or even trying to hurt you, you have my permission to bite them….use all your super powers you have to get away! ”
If you and your family believe in God, or a Super Power out there, or a ritual that is very important to your family, it is a good idea to add this to the mix. For me, with my son, I told him to always BELIEVE he has the power and right ideas to get away. I told him to pray to God to have him know the exact right super powers to bring forth as his tools.
I kept referencing the Rabbit Hole scenario, as that is something they KNOW they can do and it helps to reinforce other scarier situations.
I personally do not care for the saying…”stranger danger” as unfortunately many times the villian is NOT a stranger plus it is just a scary phrase to me.
The other tool I make sure to include is to remember to breathe. We all stop breathing when we get scared and that hampers the amount of oxygen that goes to the brain. That is why you see many people just “freeze” when encountered with drama as they are so scared they stopped breathing and can’t make any decisions. Once again…the Super Hero comes in….”Remember when we are doing super hero work Joey, we must breathe breathe breathe because it is hard work!”
Through out life, I would bring the Rabbit Hole subject up and let them do most of the talking so you, once again, have a baseline for what action they would take. You will see as they get older the story changes and it gets cemented in their being. I have had these talks with two year olds. To me it is never too early.
The other things to discuss are reminders about where to get help. Cell phones. 911 of course, neighbors,etc. If there are stores around….running away, into a store and screaming for help. I also added to the mix for some reason that came apparent later, that if you couldn’t find anyone right away, go to the next store.
My son was being chased down by a child molester. I was only minutes from him, but not close enough. The man flattened my son’s tires on his bike, un be knowns to my son, who tried to get away fast and flipped over his handle bars and broke his wrist. He remembered he was a super hero for himself and he ran to the next store, as I was racing in and out of every store looking for him as he had called me on his cell. The lady at the counter at the next store, for some reason didn’t believe him but the produce man was walking by and he DID believe his screaming, distraught face and hid him in the back until I got there as well as the police. We were blessed. We were lucky. My son remembered everything in his Super Hero Tool Box. Your child will too!
Thank you for reading this. I’m sure I have now officially given you the Heebie Geebies, but hopefully, some added skills and tools for YOUR Tool Box as well! 🙂