– From school age, children increasingly travel without their parents. What is the best way to prepare them for this? What rules do you need to know? And: why is the word “no” so important?
The biggest fear most parents have is that something might happen to their children. And the biggest challenge is letting them go a little more with each passing year. Letting her go further and further on her own and putting up with the fact that you no longer have a constant eye on her.
It is not easy to turn off the cinema in your head. You know what can happen if you’ve heard and read the reports often enough. And worried that someone might harm the child, use their curiosity and openness to lure them into a trap. And at the same time, you don’t want to take it away from him, the basic trust and confidence, you don’t want to arouse unnecessary fear.
So what is the best way for parents to prepare their child for the first independent activities, the way to school, to friends, to the playground, to sports?
“We must make children self-confident,” emphasizes Steffen Claus. He has worked with police prevention for more than 20 years. Although the police chief has long since retired, he still works as a “children’s policeman” in daycare centers and primary schools in Saxony-Anhalt to practice with the children how to behave properly in dangerous situations.
Most perpetrators come from the known environment
The “bad, strange man” that generations of parents have warned their children about is “in the rarest of cases the perpetrator,” Claus says. “The real villain is a nice, friendly person who does not use violence and plays with childlike curiosity.”
This is shown by the figures from the police crime statistics, according to which almost two-thirds of the affected children have a social relationship with the perpetrator: they are relatives, friends, coaches, group leaders. “Strangers approaching children on the street, for example,” are rare.
Steffen Claus therefore thinks it makes little sense to teach children that they must not go out with strangers. “Because that means they’re allowed to go with someone they know.” In his courses, he gives children the following guiding principles: “I don’t walk with them, I don’t drive with them, I don’t go into anybody’s apartments. My parents have to know where I am.”
Children are also not obliged to give unknown adults information, not about the way to the subway and certainly not about their names and where they live.
Children must be allowed to say “no”.
It all depends on one little word, so that it actually works in practice: “Children must be allowed to say no,” emphasizes Claus. And not only to strangers, “but also when Aunt Frieda wants to slap them again”.
Doris Krusche also thinks it is crucial to convey to children that their “no” is heard and accepted. She is one of the two managing directors of the Munich association “Kostbar eV”, which since 2002 has offered assertiveness courses for preschoolers and counseling for parents and educational professionals. “Parents must teach children from an early age: You can speak up, we take you seriously, you can be critical, careful and confident towards other adults,” says the teacher.
She considers three other guiding principles to be decisive in addition to “no” in prevention work: “My body belongs to me, it’s not my fault, I can get help”. It is important to convey this to the children – and less to practice behavior in specific situations. “Because if the child then has a slightly different experience, he has no opportunity for that.”
The association also developed online training during the Corona period. The film also contains exercises and suggestions for discussions between parents and children.
Above all, good courses strengthen self-confidence
Good self-advocacy courses for children can be recognized by focusing less on specific defense techniques and more on building self-confidence, according to the state and federal crime prevention law enforcement agencies, which provide parents with extensive information as part of the “Prevent Abuse” campaign handouts .
Reputable course offerings can be recognized by the fact that they work together with experts and parents are involved. To make children strong – a single course cannot do that, it remains the parents’ task.
“Child police officer” Steffen Claus primarily works with the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales. “The adventure heroes must constantly resolve conflicts. And it always ends well,” he explains. The story of Little Red Riding Hood can, for example, be used to illustrate in a child-friendly way which behavior is smart – and which is not: not staying on the agreed path, for example, and letting the wolf question you about things that strangers don’t.
And what is smart? “Running away always protects,” says Claus, “that’s why I try to convey to the children that it’s not cowardly to run away, it’s smart.” And that it is important to talk to the parents about experiences that seem strange.
Because prevention is always a question of trust between parents and children: “When children feel that their parents trust them, when they are encouraged to do things independently,” says Doris Krusche, “then they experience that they are perceived and heard.” And know that they can confide in their parents in difficult situations.