A safe summer at the park | VailDaily.com

A safe summer at the park

Mathew Bayley

With summertime come more outdoor activities and more time at the park. In a prior column I discussed the fact that the majority of children who are kidnapped walk willingly away with their attacker. In fact, several TV magazines have done programs on this subject, recording children whose parents were sure they would not walk away with someone they had just met willingly leave with a stranger within 60 seconds of meeting them.

It is common for a child molester to hang out at parks all summer long. This enables him to identify children who go to the park alone or with their friends. By observing the children at play he can learn their names and their favorite game. He might bring a dog or a Frisbee to attract children’s attention.

Over the course of a summer, the local children can become quite familiar with the child molester and feel very comfortable in his presence. If a skilled child molester can get a child he has just met to walk away with him, think how easy it could be for a child molester who has gained a child’s trust to get that child to leave the park with him.

All the parents who were sure that their child would not leave with a someone they had just met had told their child never to leave with a stranger, and all their children had said OK. So what went wrong?

Most parents talk to their children about “good strangers and bad strangers” less than four times per year. When questioned why, the most common answer was “I want my children to be safe but I do not want to scare them about the subject.”

Certainly we do not want to create a whole generation of children who are afraid of their own species, but one of the ways a child molester gains the confidence of a child is by frequent, seemingly innocent, contacts. It is imperative that we, as parents, talk with our children about who they can trust more often then a child molester talks to them in their daily lives.

In our Karate for Safe Kids program we teach children that adults, and that means teenagers too, know better than to give a child a present or ask them to go with them. Adults also know that it is wrong to ask any child to keep a secret from their parents. Anyone who does one of these things is a bad stranger, and you want to get away from them, stay away from them and tell your parents as fast as you can.

These black-and-white rules are a good starting point and should be reviewed weekly. It is also important to take the time to talk with your child about their day. Who they played with, what game they played, did they see any interesting animals (dogs, cats, etc.), and did they make any new friends.

Children love to share. It is one of the ways they seek approval from their parents. If you can make a regular part of your life, five minutes a day, where your child shares his-her activities with you, you will gain a wealth of knowledge about your child and their daily experiences.

Also, the more mechanisms you create with your children that enables them to seek and gain your approval, the less they will feel the need to seek approval from others.

One of the best ways to encourage your children to practice safety around people is to make it holistic. If you will: Safety is safety is safety. You want to lump everything they do to keep themselves safe all into one basket. From looking both ways before they cross the street, to wearing bike helmets, to staying away from strangers.

One of the games you can play with your child on a daily basis is have them name two things they did to keep themselves safe. The more interaction and approval they get from you for following little safety rules, the more likely they are to remember and follow the really important safety rules.

It is a good idea to go to the park with your child once in a while or drop by unannounced. If there is a child molester staking out a park, he is less likely to focus on children whose parents are frequently with them. For younger children, the Karate for Safe Kids rule is: When you are playing, always stay in sight of your parents. If you can see your parents, then your parents can see you.

One last important point: I’m sure you have all told your children never to go to a friend’s house after school until you have met their parents. Make sure your child knows this rule goes for new friends they have met at the park.

Hey, summertime is here. It is time for fun in the sun. A little time spent making sure your children know the safety rules will go a long way to making this the best summer yet for you and your kids. If you have any questions on safety, please visit my Web site vailacademyofmartialarts.com or call me at 949-8121. I am always at your service.


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