There are tons of great, fun, easy ways to incorporate body safety topics into your everyday conversations with your child, two of which I cover below:
Children love stories (mostly they love the attention you pay them when you’re reading to them). Here’s a short list to give you an idea of what kinds of stories teach moral or safety lessons that can lead to great teaching moments:
- Aesop’s fables are super short and teach lessons every person needs to learn to become a decent human being. (If you buy a book of Aesop’s Fables, get a kid’s version that offers commentary or even you might not get the point of some of the more obscure lessons.)
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This one’s loaded with all kinds of great fodder for safety chats—dangerous people (the queen), compassion (the huntsman who chooses not to kill Snow White), the danger of accepting gifts (the poisoned apple from the disguised queen), and the importance of having friends (the seven dwarves). This story also has some great negative lessons to discuss with your child (e.g., the fallacy of needing a prince to save you when you’re in trouble) that can lead to very lively conversation.
- Little Red Riding Hood. Another oldie but goodie that covers everything from the need for situational awareness to recognizing tricky people (e.g., Red at first doesn’t see that her grandmother is actually the wolf, but figures it out by paying attention to the clues—big ears, teeth, etc.).
- The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. What’s not to love about Harry’s story? He’s an abused and maligned orphan and a wizard with all kinds of cool magical powers that capture kids’ imaginations. Harry is bullied, encounters scads of evil people, and is constantly challenged with tough moral choices.
- Any superhero movie (with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy and Dead Pool movies, which are waaay too graphic and mature for this age group, albeit hilarious!). Kids of all ages love superheroes and the battles between good and evil.
There are also a multitude of excellent books specifically covering body safety topics that you can find on any online bookstore.
Using Imagination & Role Playing
Harness your child’s vivid imagination by engaging him in role playing different body safety scenarios. I suggest that after having a short chat about a body safety issue (for example, not going somewhere with other people unless you say it’s okay), you ask your child questions like, “What would you do if you were in the front yard and someone in a car rolled down their window and asked if you wanted some candy?” Let your child fully answer, without interrupting or correcting him, until he’s done answering your question.
If he’s off base and says he’d go up to the car get the candy, don’t scold or punish him. Remember this is a new concept for him and teaching him about body safety is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead, you might say, “That wouldn’t be a good idea because you might put yourself in danger. What do you think could happen if you went over to his car to get the candy?” Continue gently guiding him and asking questions to help him think through the ramifications of going up to the car.
Remember, your goal is to guide your child, not scare him to death, so don’t jump in when he’s mid-sentence to frantically warn him that he could be snatched and taken away from you forever!
When he gives you the “correct” answer (that he would run into the house and tell you right away), praise him and tell him how smart he is. You can even reward him with a special treat or toy (for a small child it could be a simple as one gummy bear for the correct answer).
Don’t accept just a verbal answer; make him show you what he would do. Actually take him outside and then have him run up to you and tell you the story of the imaginary person in the car. If you can’t do this, have your child play out the scenarios using stuffed animals or other toys, or have him draw pictures to show what he would do.
Then give him a couple more scenarios, for example: “But what if your soccer coach told you he’ll give you a ride home from practice?” Correct answer: Don’t get in his car unless YOU, the parent, tell him it’s okay.
Or, “And what if Grandpa asked if you want to go to the store with him?” Correct answer: This one’s tricky; if Grandpa is babysitting him, he’s the one in charge, so it’s okay. But if he’s not the one in charge, your child always has to ask you first, no matter who asks him to get in their vehicle.
By practicing through role play or drawings, your child will learn more quickly and concretely what he needs to know to stay safe.
Be the parent your child deserves!
the Badass Grandma
About Badass Parenting
In Badass Parenting: Prepare Your Kids to Deal with Danger without Scaring the Hell out of Them, danger expert CJ Scarlet helps parents teach their children how to avoid and handle themselves in scary situations ranging from bullying and digital dangers to sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and kidnapping.
After reading this book, you’ll feel more knowledgeable and confident in your ability to talk candidly with your child at her age and maturity level without scaring her to death. It’s time to ditch the worry and get some sleep!
Edgy, funny, and irreverent, this unputdownable book (with TONS of downloadable bonus content!) is the new bible for parents looking to raise safe, savvy, confident kids.
“Badass Parenting is like a triple-dark chocolate cheesecake, with a layer of mousse in the middle (hint: the mousse is CJ Scarlet’s humor and style – which helps lighten up the cheesecake!). You will love this book!”
Karen Christie, Mom & Grandma