Trust & Stranger Danger

Monday, July 10, 2006

The question has been raised regarding the issue of Trust. How do we recognise a paedophile? How do they infiltrate our communities and earn our trust?

The answer is both obvious and one to keep us on our guard.

They earn our trust by being trustworthy. By being kind, caring, by enjoying our company and that of our children; by being the individuals who will assist when assistance is required, will pick up the kids from school in emergencies and help us. By being trusted family members, work colleagues and neighbours; the gentle, lonely man across the street, the family man with the well behaved children who attend the same church.

Scared? Well, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk to our families.

  1. Talk to your children

I cannot emphasise this enough! Talk to your children about people, about how some families maybe different to your own: in structure and belief systems; talk about how different families interact with each other; teach your children about respect and consideration. Respect for themselves, others and property. Teach them that it is NEVER ok to hurt another person, to consider the words they use. Teach them behaviour (impulse) control; that they are in charge of their emotions and their bodies.

Teach them trust. Trust in their feelings, talk to them about intuition and gut feelings, the fact that everything they have ever learnt is stored in their brains and can be retrieved – sometimes those feelings are retrieved via emotions – discuss the way their bodies interpret emotion: feeling nervous or scared might make them feel like they have butterflies in their tummies – or a big rock at the bottom of their stomach. Teach them to trust those danger feelings. Explain the fight or flight syndrome – that their bodies get chemicals running through them and the chemical that takes over the body when they are scared or in danger, is called adrenaline.

Teach them to trust their bodies. Learn to trust your own. Recognise that a paedophile in the act of grooming is acting on your children AND you. Understand that you may not consciously recognise the signs – but that your gut will. AND TRUST YOUR GUT. Keep you and your families safe.

Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure that your children know – by example, not just words – that you won’t get angry at THEM – help them to understand that you can be angry at a situation they are in – without being angry at them. Be careful about showing your anger to them – particularly small children – they need to know that they can tell you and you will deal with the situation. The main reason people tell lies is to avoid getting in trouble, help your children to be honest with you and to trust and respect you by demonstrating trust and respect in them.

  1. Why doesn’t Stranger Danger Work?

Stranger Danger doesn’t work because the majority of individuals who molest children are not strangers. Take the steps above, change the words you use – not stranger danger – but danger feelings; read, read and read some more about relationships and develop the relationships with your children. Ensure that your children know that in the event that they don’t feel safe that they should tell someone and keep telling until someone listens. Adults are people and they don’t always get it right – so kids –keep telling until someone listens.

In the words of the good Professor (Moody that is) CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Trust, love and respect in our relationships with our children will help keep them safe.

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