Having the "safety talk" with a preschooler — The Bump
Pre-School

Having the "safety talk" with a preschooler

I've been wondering about how and when to talk to DD about safety - specifically talking to strangers, private parts, etc. DD is very shy and typically doesn't speak to anyone she doesn't know. But, sometimes people will come up to her in public and compliment her hair, or the cashier at the grocery store will ask how she's doing, etc. I encourage her to speak back to people in those situations, just to be friendly. But, she has a typical 4-year old way of viewing the world and I'm sure if I say "don't talk to strangers" she will wonder why I sometimes encourage her to do the opposite. Is there an easy way to explain the difference? Do I say "you can only talk to strangers when mommy says it's okay?" Or, only when I'm talking to them too? 

The other thing is talking about her privates. I want to tell her that they are private and not for others to see or touch. However, obviously DH and I need to do so when bathing her or if there is ever something wrong. My mom or MIL might also bathe her while babysitting. So, do I say only family members and doctors? Do I give her a specific list of names?

TIA!


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Re: Having the "safety talk" with a preschooler

  • I think the easiest way is to just start dropping it into conversation. It feels silly at first, but it becomes more natural.

    I try not to say strangers, but instead "tricky people." They look just like everyone else, but they make bad choices and might trick you into making bad choices. We don't go anywhere with people we don't know or accept anything from them (ie: candy, ice cream). If someone you don't know asks for your help, you say you'll go get mom or dad to help. You don't have to say all of this at once; I "planted the seed" and then expanded on the topic bit by bit. We practice our address and phone number and I usually throw in safety info when we talk about that.
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  • I got these two books for my kids & they actually really like reading them (esp the comic book one) and talking about the scenarios in them...The comic book one is not really geared toward really little ones but I adjust what is in there and make them into stories & stuff. It has been helpful for us and I feel like my kids picked up on the ideas right away. I don't use the 'tricky people' expression but we do talk about people we know doing or saying things as well as 'strangers'.  I even use our family members as examples to show that their body is theirs, etc--- "mommy is holding you reading this book right now, do you like that?" -yes. 'well some days you might not be in the mood for mommy to hold you or hug you and it is ok to tell mommy you dont really want to be touched or held and just wnat to play on your own or be in your room, etc.... or grandpa loves to give you guys lots of kisses but what if one day you didn't want to or only wanted one kiss, what would you say to him? And if he refused and still gave you kisses what would you do (tell mommy/daddy), etc..... 
    I think these books do a pretty good job of giving all differnet scenarios & discussion topics. The first one is more about thumbs up/thumbs down touches and yucky feelings and the other is about all sorts of scenarios, strangers, checking with your parents, interrupting for emergencies, bullying, good touch/bad touch, etc.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0984747206/ref=pe_175190_21431760_M3T1_ST1_dp_1

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1479147206/ref=pe_175190_21431760_M3T1_ST1_dp_3


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  • "The Berestain Bears Learn About Strangers" is a really good, non-scary book about the topic.  

    As for personal area, DD has asked why she can't go outside naked.  I just say that her personal area is only something for her parents or doctor to see.
  • I've been thinking a lot about this too. How do you approach the private parts discussion without making her feel like it's her responsibility if an adult tries something? I don't know how to word it without making her feel like she has a decision in the matter at all times. If I say, no one should touch your private parts unless it's mommy or daddy bathing you, then God forbid something happens, would she feel responsible? KWIM?
  • I have always stopped where we go in public and identify the "safe" people.  The person to go to if they can't see me.  Cashiers in a store, another mommy at the playground, security guard at the mall.  I embarrassed DH a lot at the mall we passed a police officer and dramatically asked "who's that?" and quizzed them on how they knew, etc.  He stopped and talked to them, and gave them sticker badges and high fives.  I ask them at restaurants, the farmer's market, what ever.  Now that they are 4 and 5, I talk to them about what type of scenario they'd have to find a safe person. 

    I learned on here about the tricky people terminology and love it.  We talk about how a safe person would NEVER ask a child for help or ask them to leave.  A safe person would say "let's find your mom."  A tricky person would try to get them away. I haven't begun to talk about how grown ups they know and trust can be tricky yet, but it is coming, I suppose.

    For private parts, I have always said nobody wants to see your ____.  That's why they are covered with underwear.  Now that Alex is going to elementary school, we are starting the talk about if someone asks to see it/touch it, they are tricky and she is to find the safe person immediately.  Sigh .  I hate to think of it,

    When I was a therapist, I would take my kiddo to the mall or a grocery store and have a therapist the child didn't know approach and "be tricky."  I can't tell you how tempted the therapist in me wants to do this with my kids, but I'm not quite there yet.  I want them to stay little,  I want to keep them safe and I hate that I have to burst their wide-eyed belief that the world is benevolent so young.

     

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  • groovygrlgroovygrl member
    edited August 2013
    A lot of what loveeeyore said is in one or both of those books that I recommended (b/c I believe the author is the person who is all about the tricky people concept)...One part she mentioned that I really like is the safe people when we're out in public, we also talk about that a lot, I mention places we go & they can rattle off the safe ppl (the cashier at the store, the people who work at the zoo, the mom with kids if you don't see someone who works there, etc).   Also the fact that safe adults don't ask kids to help with things, they ask the kids to find their parents to help, or that no one should ever tell a child to keep a touch a secret and if they do the child should tell mom/dad/safe adult.

    The author has a pretty good website, I think I saw someone post it on here awhile ago and that is why I bought her book---  http://safelyeverafter.com/tips.html

    I would have to disagree with telling them 'no one wants to see your vagina/penis'? To me that is sort of like saying they're dirty or bad...? Why not 'no one else should see them/needs to see them'---- if no one 'wants to see them' why are we even having these talks, it seems like a white lie or something.  We also keep them covered for safety reasons so they don't get hurt when we play or do things or so we don't get germs in them...  I just tell my kids that our vagina/penis are our privates, and we call them that b/c they're private, just for us and other people shouldn't ask to see them or touch them except things like when mom or dad is giving a bath or if the doctor has to see them when mom/dad are there  (DS was recently extremely constipated and had to have a rectal exam so I have a great 'example' to use with him)... the same conversation can include that kids can touch their own privates but should do so in private, in their own room or in the bathroom, not in front of other people, etc.

    I also hate that they have to finally learn that there are bad ppl in the world who want to do bad things and I don't really think there is a comparison between wanting a 4 yr old to still see the world through their very innocent eyes and a school aged kid/teenager their entire life, they're still really young & we can start all these conversations but they still really don't 'understand' what the bad/tricky people are all about or the consequences of the actions.    I struggle w/ that whole thing also and am thankful my kids have not asked a ton of questions about why someone would want to touch them or whatever, but with all our discussions they're definitely aware that there are adults who would ask them to go somewhere or do something they shouldn't, and I think that is a start.
  • ambrvanambrvan member
    edited August 2013
    You got some ready good advice on dealing with strangers so I won't touch on that.

    We have to deal with the private parts issue more than most. Something tragic happened in our family and so this is an extremely important topic for us. As someone else said, work it into everyday conversation. That makes it normal for you and for your LO. Also make sure that you are taking to your LO about secrets and that she can always tell you anything or come to certain other authorities if she feels uncomfortable. That subject should focus on more than just if something of sexual nature happens. And make sure you start to talk about when it is ok to keep secrets and not. That has been a tough one for my SD (7) to grasp as she is starting to navigate real friendships but we are teaching her that trustworthy adults will never ask her to keep secrets from us, not even us as her parents; we would never ask her to keep a secret from the other parent. And we don't. Not even birthday gifts. If it is a secret, we don't put her in that position.

    But be careful that while you are teaching your LO personal body safety, you do not make her feel that her body is something to be ashamed of. I had a very hard time understanding that my DS (3.5) likes to talk about his privates (very loudly I might add ) because he is a boy discovering his body. It was unnerving to me because at the same age, it meant something totally different when my SD brought it up. But by acknowledging my DS' s body and his need to know it, our whole family, including my SD, has learned a lot. My SD is becoming much comfortable with her own body again, not so afraid to talk about herself which is a good thing if the need should arise.

    Silence and taboo creates shame and insecurity which leads to vulnerability. Being self aware and unashamed means that should something ever happen, there is less insecurity to overcome when trying to empower the child again, that the guilt the child feels will be easier (for lack of a better word because it is never easy) to dissolve.
  • groovygrl said:


    The author has a pretty good website, I think I saw someone post it on here awhile ago and that is why I bought her book---  http://safelyeverafter.com/tips.html'
     
    Thank you for the website!

    I would have to disagree with telling them 'no one wants to see your vagina/penis'? To me that is sort of like saying they're dirty or bad...? Why not 'no one else should see them/needs to see them'---- if no one 'wants to see them' why are we even having these talks, it seems like a white lie or something.  We also keep them covered for safety reasons so they don't get hurt when we play or do things or so we don't get germs in them...  I just tell my kids that our vagina/penis are our privates, and we call them that b/c they're private, just for us and other people shouldn't ask to see them or touch them except things like when mom or dad is giving a bath or if the doctor has to see them when mom/dad are there  (DS was recently extremely constipated and had to have a rectal exam so I have a great 'example' to use with him)... the same conversation can include that kids can touch their own privates but should do so in private, in their own room or in the bathroom, not in front of other people, etc.
     
     
    Good point.  I get what you're saying.  I don't shame them and say it's disgusting or anything and we are all openly nakey at home- they take baths together while I shower- no shame here.  But I sure as heck don't want to go to the CVS for shampoo and get flashed by a four-year old.  I don't want to get flashed by a 40 year old. Even a 24 year old .   I am not prude or twisted, I am certain nobody WANTS to see my kid's penis.  And IF someone does when he's away from me, then they are tricky.  But I have a kid who wouldn't speak in public and would whip out his penis to make his classmates laugh or to get me to squirm uncomfortably at the store.   
     
    Ah well.  I guess we'll figure it out as we go!

     
    If you really want to be happy, no one can stop you.

    [IMG]http://i47.tinypic.com/34fg0u1.jpg[/IMG]
  •  I hear you but unfortunately there are ppl who want to see them and that is why we have to have these conversations...but I think we all figure it out as we go, just the way it is and none of us have the perfect solution, can just try our best at all things parenting right? Better to have the conversation in whatever way than not at all I figure.
  • Thanks for all of this great advice! I think I will order those books and start there. DD loves books and learns a lot from them, so that's a great way to introduce the subjects.

    I do also disagree about the "nobody wants to see your privates" discussion. Kids in elementary school ask to see them all the time, and it's perfectly innocent. They aren't being tricky or perverted or anything. They are just kids who are exploring their own body and want to see what others' look like. I'm not suggesting that kids show them to others. I think we should still tell them not to let them see them (and to tell a teacher). But, since DD is a very literal person, I don't want to tell her no one wants to see them only for her to come home and question it after some kid asks to see them, you know?

    I'm also wondering about the "safe people" thing. I'm afraid about giving her blanket rules about who is safe and unsafe. Unfortunately, there are plenty of cashiers, police officers, etc. who are not safe. My friend was sexually harassed by a police officer recently. All it takes is for DD to hear about a cop being "tricky" and all of the sudden she questions everything I've told her about safe people. 

    So, I still struggle with things like that because she is so incredibly black and white and literal. 


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  • groovygrlgroovygrl member
    edited September 2013
    Hope the books work out for you! They actually refer to the fact that a person in a uniform is not necessarily safe, etc. the cashier being safe is the only alternative for a child lost in a store, for example, how else could you direct a child who gets separated from you in a public place but to talk to someone who works there? It doesn't necessarily mean all cashiers are safe, just that if you are lost or separated, who can you go to...
  • I have been telling DD1 about her "privacy" since she was 2.  She knows only mommy/daddy/doctor when mommy/daddy are there/and specific teachers can see her "privacy".  She knows to tell us if anyone asks to see it.  I quiz her every now and then to see how she responds....she always responds what I have told her.

    For the strangers question.  This was a hot topic in my moms group for a while.  The best advice I heard is if someone tries to take you or asks you questions, you start fighting back and scream/yell "I DO NOT KNOW YOU, YOU ARE NOT MY PARENT, I DO NOT KNOW YOU".  That will get someones attention.  I personally don't care about people getting their feelings hurt - I live in the city and I started talking with DD1 about this when she turned 3.  She knows she is never to get into a car with anyone except mommy or daddy, period.  She is to (as she puts it) "its the only time it is okay to scream as loud as I can, bite, kick, and hit someone, right mama?".  I say absolutely.  keep doing it until another mommy or daddy or teacher comes.

    Now don't get me wrong, I am not trying to scare the living dickens out of her.  We discuss it about once/month.  She can talk to strangers only if mommy/daddy are there.  We (parents in my dd class) got daycare involved and so all the kids roll played with the teacher.  that was awesome.  If she is lost - she knows to look for another parent with kids to ask for help.

    Now if I could only stop random strangers from kissing my two year old at the park for being cute.  quite harmless (it is another culture that will sneak in these quick kisses)....but i do not like it at all. 

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