Where do we draw the line when teaching our children to be kind and nice?

We want them to be successful and have healthy relationships, but we also want them to have discernment. Recently, I watched a movie entitled Room. It portrayed a girl who had been kidnapped, raped, and kept in secret for 7 years. When this young woman and her 5 year old son were found she had a moment of anger towards her mother. She stated that maybe if her mother had not been so obsessed with telling her to be the “nice girl” then she would not have tried to help a stranger with a sick animal. This is how her kidnapper, rapist, and captor lured her away from the street all those years ago.
This movie was not a documentary, but it very likely could have been based on true events. Everyone froze in shock in 2013 when Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were found in a Cleveland home after being reported missing 10 years earlier. They were in a neighborhood surrounded by people. These young woman were tortured, raped, and even gave birth in what was thought to be an empty home.
As parents, our worst nightmare is the thought that someone would do anything to one of our children. It is so important to talk with our children about healthy boundaries and what to do if someone approaches them. It is okay to not be the nice kid if you think that you are possibly in danger. We need to empower our children to be able to think for themselves in situations that are potentially dangerous to them.
This is such a difficult topic to introduce to our children, but it is so necessary. The days of stranger danger are far from over. We have to be even more vigilant to protect our children from what other people can think to do to them. “The most important thing that parents need to know is that 93% of sexual abuse against children is perpetrated by those known to the child–meaning family, friends and those they know in their environment, like teachers and coaches,” explains Elizabeth Jeglic, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and author of Protecting Your Child from Sexual Abuse. “We are targeting the wrong individuals when we teach our children about stranger danger. We are better off teaching our children about consent and that no one should be touching them without their permission.”
According to protectyoungminds.org there are lots of plans that you can implement to help your child out of a potentially dangerous situation. The easiest and safest way to get a child thinking about safety is to develop a safety or “code” word with them. It needs to be something a child can easily remember that will not come up in regular conversations frequently. If a child is old enough to have a cell phone it can be as simple as a specific emoji or letter. If you see this message the parent calls immediately to say something has come up, and we are coming to get you. This gives your child an easy escape without having to explain why they are uncomfortable and want to leave.
As a parent we can never be afraid to talk to our children about violence or sexual assault. They need to know that it happens, and they need to know how to protect themselves. The ChildHelpNational Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Serving the United States, its territories, and Canada, the hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in over 170 languages. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or has experienced domestic violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama provides free, confidential support. Please contact us for more information on ways that CSNA can help victims and survivors. We can be reached locally at (256)574-5826 or at our 24/7 HELPline at (256)716-1000.

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