Growing up with a father in law enforcement hasn’t made things easy for our daughters.
There are a lot of things that get vetoed simply because we know too much about the very present evils in the world. Still, protecting our children is serious business, and sometimes it’s hard to know what’s reasonable.
Children were clearly very precious to Jesus during His ministry. He made time for them, He called them out, He held them up as examples, and He sternly warned anyone about causing little ones to stumble. Here are some good guidelines:
• Research points to age nine as the golden age for solo sleepovers. By this age, most children can communicate clearly and will be more likely to stand up for themselves and report to a parent any inappropriate activity. Prior to this, perhaps they could go to a cousin’s home or a close friend’s house if a sibling will also be attending.
• Every child is different in the rates at which they mature and what types of social events for which they are ready. Know your children and don’t force them to go somewhere if they are not ready.
• Let them go to overnight camps, etc. only if you or another adult whom you absolutely trust can be with them, especially at break times and sleep times. The unfortunate statistics are that in the course of childhood, one in six boys and one in four girls will be a victim of sexual molestation.
• Train your child from the time they are pre-schoolers that absolutely no one, other than a parent or their pediatrician has the right to look at or touch anything covered by a swimsuit.
• We constantly tell our children to obey adults. Make sure they know it is also okay not to do something that they feel uncomfortable with.
• If you have a feeling that something is a bit off or unsafe, don’t hesitate to tell your child “no.” Many times, our children have gone to birthday party festivities (and one of us have stayed with them), but not the sleepover part.
• Arrange day-time play dates before sleepovers to observe interaction and behaviors.
• Meet the other parents. Ask questions about supervision, house rules, values and whether or not there are older siblings present, guns in the house, etc.
• It is far more likely that a child will be hurt or abducted by someone they know than a complete stranger. Still, it doesn’t hurt to let them know that adults should not stop to ask them directions or for helping looking for a lost puppy.
• Nothing replaces your direct supervision. Many interviews with criminals who have harmed or abducted children cited the lack of supervision as the single most important factor in determining which child they took.
• Do not post pictures of your children on the Internet; if you have a Facebook, put all of your things on a “Friends Only” setting. Consider having a “no swimsuit pictures” rule as well.
• No matter how well we train our children, studies also show that most of them will run out in the street for the ball or talk to the friendly stranger in the car. Be wise, but don’t live in fear. Once we have taken every reasonable precaution, we need to carry our children before the throne of the One who loves them even more than we do, and will be with them always, even when we cannot go.
Do you need a safety check at your house? Initiate some good, casual conversations about such topics with your children this week.