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5 Tips for Under 5s!

Can we start safeguarding training when our kids are under the age of 5? YES, we can! Wherever we are in the world we, as parents and caregivers, have the responsibility to play a vital role in reducing the risk and impact of harm to children. A helpful acronym is A.T.E. (Awareness, Trust, and Empowerment). We can help our children to have awareness of ‘good and bad’ interactions and their ‘that doesn’t feel right’ feeling. We can empower children to know what to do when something doesn’t feel right, and we can create an environment which allows children to feel heard and supported by a trusted adult.

We care about your children being safe, so here are our 5 Tips for Under 5s:

  1. Parenting style: Are you a helicopter parent or a snowplow parent pushing away all your child’s problems? Or are you a dolphin parent swimming alongside your child allowing them to take healthy risks and problem solve while you support them? Where are you on the 4 types of parenting styles chart? Google these terms! We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, but self-awareness and a growth attitude are important. How we parent and disciple our little ones, ensuring time for play and exploration, a sense of community and contribution, and the basics of regular sleep, exercise, and rest will provide them with a solid foundation for how they will respond to possible harm.
  2. Problem solving: Problem solving skills are vital to empowering a child to know what to do if they encounter harm. Why not try some safeguarding ‘What if’ scenario play? Make your living room into a pretend zoo, for example, and act out scenarios like “What if Mum/Dad is behind the elephant and you can’t see me. What could you do?” Or act out a scenario using toys about a tag game that involves touching each other’s bottoms (which, sadly, can be a common playground game) and ask them what the toys could do and say. Come up with some tag lines or a memorable chant for your child to remember. Remember, we don’t want to promote fear but build wisdom, so make scenario play fun and praise your child for their good problem-solving ideas! This type of 'What If' scenario play can gradually build up your family’s principles and expectations for what your child should do if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
  3. Good and Bad Images: Today, children have more access to images than ever before and sadly many children view pornography, usually accidentally, for the first time when in elementary school like an explicit music video playing at a fast-food restaurant or a pop-up on the computer. So, from as young as 2 years old, start proactive communication about ‘good and bad pictures’ with your child. Show your child a good picture and ask them how they feel, then maybe a photo of a sad child and ask them the same question. Watch a video and pause at a ‘bad scene,’ like a character being chased, and ask them what they could do if that was happening to them or a friend. Remind them that if they ever see something that makes them feel sad, uncomfortable, or unsafe to always come and talk to you about it and you WILL listen.
  4. Digital Parenting: These days, most harmful situations involve the smart phone in some way. Your child will be watching how YOU interact with your phone so be a good role model! Examples could include asking permission before you take a photo of someone and at night charging your phone at a family charging station and not in your bedrooms. Actively limit your under 5s using any devices, or seeing you on your phone, as we all know how addictive these devices are. All this will contribute towards a family culture of digital wisdom and accountability which helps with digital parenting as children get older, own their own devices, and have greater autonomy over their technology usage. It is really hard to start these conversations from scratch when your child is already a teenager!
  5. Consent: Should we force our young children to kiss or hug someone they don’t want to? It’s important that from an early age, your child knows they can communicate with you about how they feel regarding different types of touch, especially ones they don’t like. Draw some concentric circles on the ground. In the middle circle draw a picture of someone tightly hugging and kissing and ask your child who they would put in that circle. Usually, they’ll say you! Then draw pictures in the following concentric circles of other types of touches like loose hugs, side hug, handshakes, high fives, and no touch like a wave. Listen to who your child puts into the circles and communicate how they can always change their mind as they get older. Help them learn how to respectfully decline an uncomfortable touch in your context and culture.

So, these are our 5 Tips for Under 5s! Try these tips out and tell us how it goes! Remember, comfortable, and affirming safeguarding scenario play, problem solving games and healthy communication practise, starting when your child is young, is best.  We commit to praying for you to be filled with wisdom, given by God, as you raise your precious, little ones and act as their role models. If you have any questions, please do let us know safeguarding@teachbeyond.org.

11 May 22
by the TeachBeyond Safeguarding Team