Play Date Safety: Questions Every Parent Should Askby KidSafe Foundation Sally & Cherie
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I’m embarrassed to ask that…what will they think of me?
This is what many parents tell us when we discuss the importance of asking “safety questions” of another parent/friend /adult before sending their kids to a play date, sleep over, or off to sports practice.
With all of the stories in the media lately about seemingly "trusted" adults in children’s lives who have broken that trust and abused children, it is important to ask yourself as a parent, “Is my discomfort with asking safety questions more important than my child’s safety?” “Is the chance of “offending” someone by asking these questions more important than my child’s safety?”
Perhaps a year ago you might not have even thought to ask - but now that you have woken up to the epidemic of child abuse happening everyday across the nation, now that you know that 90% of the time a child is harmed by someone they know, you can’t just bury your head in the sand or say that would never happen to my child…because it can and it does.
We want your children to be safe. We want you as parents to feel that you have done all in your power to keep your child safe. We want you to feel confident that you have taught your child what they need to know, so when they are not with you they will make the safest and smartest choices…and if anything “unsafe” does happen, that they would report it to you immediately.
With that said, below are some questions/discussions that are important to ask the many other people you entrust with your child.
Play Date/Sleep Over
- Who will be watching the children?
- Do you have older children and will they or their friends be present?
- Do you have a gun in your house?
- What safety rules do you have in your house?
- Will you be staying at your house? What is the plan?
- Is the TV and internet use monitored?
- What are the sleeping arrangements?
At the end of the day, we hope that your child will be having a play date or sleep over with a family you know well and is like minded when it comes to safety. Asking these questions does not ensure your child will be safe, but how the adult answers the questions is important to your child’s safety.
Are they offended? Do they tell you that you are too overprotective? Are they giving you the answers that make you feel your child will be in a safe environment?
One of the most important ways to keep your child safe is to trust your own instincts. If you are not comfortable with the answers the adult is giving you, it is your right to decline the invitation for your child. You are the first line of defense in your child’s safety.
Conversations to have with your child:
- Your body is special and belongs to you
- You are in charge of your body and nobody should touch you in any way that makes you feel confused, weird, uncomfortable or on your private parts
- You should not touch or look at anyone’s privates
- When over a friend’s house, clothes must always stay on
- No one should take pictures of your privates or show you pictures of naked people
- No playing in the master bedroom
- No one should ever ask you to keep a secret from us - or keep a secret that makes you uncomfortable and you are NEVER allowed to tell
- Let your child know that you will always believe them and praise them when they report unsafe situations to you
- Model and role play situations so your child will know what to do and how to respond
- Ask “what if” questions to see if your child will make the safest and smartest choices
- Discuss your safety rules and they should be followed when you are at another’s house
- Have a code word your child can say to you over the phone so if your child wants to leave they don’t have to be embarrassed.
Reading that lengthy list and having these conversations does not guarantee your child will be safe, or that your child will follow your directions, but you open the door to conversations that should be had on a regular basis as a natural part of your parenting. If you, your friends, and your children’s friend’s parents all start speaking the same language of safety and are excepting to openly discuss these questions your children will be safer.
So are you still embarrassed to ask these questions? If you answered yes…get over it! Nothing is more important than your child’s safety!