Safety With Others

Children are vulnerable to different safety-related situations surrounding other people. One way to manage this is by teaching children as many safety skills as possible in their interactions with others.

 

In this lesson, we will be discussing:

  1. Personal Safety
  2. Safety in School
  3. Safety in Interactions
  4. Skills to teach

Personal Safety

Children who learn and think differently than their peers may be more vulnerable than other children (Wright & Griffin, 2022). Hence, children with disabilities, for example those on the autism spectrum, fall into this category of vulnerable children. Here are some tips to help them learn to be safe or safer: 

1. Change clothes privately 

  • always ensure that changing of clothes is done in a private space, like the bathroom
  • even in personal bedroom, make sure curtains are down so no one from the outside can see them undress themselves
  • same goes for when they are in public places i.e.: schools, shopping malls
  • this concept can be taught from a very young age (2 years)
  • parents should not be undressing in front of the children too 

 

Public vs. Private

  • using these terms could enhance children’s understanding
  • body parts: private parts that other people should not look or touch
  • public behaviours (greeting, waving, eating, playing together) vs. private behaviours (changing clothes)
  • for older children: to differentiate public and private matters in conversation (what to share and what not to share)

 

Personal Space

  • intimate behaviours (e.g. hugging, kissing, sitting on lap): should be done exclusively with parents and not strangers/others (may vary according to family values and cultures)

 

Circle of Friends 

  • advanced concept: differentiating different groups of people and how to behave accordingly 

 

Stay with Me 

  • refer to lesson 5, “Safety in the Community” for more! 

2. Safety in School 

Parents should check out: 

  • the reporting and accountability system of the schools and organisations our children attend (e.g. availability of surveillance system)
  • safeguard practices of the school/organisation 
  • observe behaviour of school’s/organisation’s staff (through conversation/direct observation) and learn about their culture and ethical practices: language used, consequences offered for misbehaving students etc.
  • observe your child’s behaviour and manners around people: does your child get excited to see a certain person? Does your child hug you tight when they see someone, maybe in fear?
  • Monitor your children’s physical changes and overall demeanour: any explained bruises/cuts, becoming more withdrawn at home

 

Children with autism may demonstrate more challenging or even aggressive behaviours in such situations. Physical, behavioural and emotional changes are all clues and signs not to be ignored, or punished. 

3. Safety in Interactions 

i. TRUST your children 

  • pay extra attention to people that your child appears to be uncomfortable with
  • not to immediately make any assumptions, but to note and always observe their interactions with your child at all times
  • try to speak to your child in private about this person

* it is okay for children to not have to hug another person if they seem uncomfortable to do so! 

 

ii. Private vs. Public, Personal Space, Circle of Friends 

  • apply these concepts regularly throughout daily life
  • IMPORTANT TIP: teach your child that NO ONE is allowed to touch any part of their body, especially private areas. Parents can be an exception if they need help in toileting and showers.
  • teach your child to never initiate any help if a stranger comes up to them asking for help to find their missing pet (if you are not with them)
  • “STRANGER DANGER!” is a common phrase to be repeated when outside the home 

4. Skills to Teach 

i. Communication 

  • Teaching of “No”, “Stop”, “Help” 
  • Practice through role plays where your child utilises these skills while they are in a “dangerous” situation. 

Creating safe environments means that our children are constantly treated with respect and dignity. This is the responsibility of everyone: parents, siblings, grandparents, relatives, teachers, neighbours, people in the community, and everyone else who are involved in the lives of our children. 

 

It is always better safe than sorry.

Your Turn

Observe and assess your child’s safety when being around others. Note down your specific concerns. 

 

Go through the list and discuss with your spouse which one is the biggest priority for your child/children to learn.

References

1. Wright, L., & Griffin, M. (2022). Personal Safety and Stranger Danger: How to Teach Your Child | Understood - For learning and thinking differences. Understood.org. Retrieved 1 January 2022, from https://www.understood.org/articles/en/how-to-teach-child-personal-safety.