With Halloween just around the corner, it made me think of the ultimate advice that parents give to their children.
The irony with this advice is that on Halloween night we actually encourage children to ask for candy from complete strangers. And actually, there's a bigger problem with the candy-from-strangers cliche: While strangers can be dangerous, our children face more danger from people they actually know. According to the Department of Justice, strangers account for only 10% of all abuse cases, while acquaintances account for 90%.
That's not the typical scare we expect so close to Halloween, but if this is the reality of the world we live in, then it’s worth thinking about.
Here are three specific things you can do to help keep your kids safe.
- Teach your kids the basics of personal boundaries. At Camp, we teach our campers to “Respect everyone with your hands and feet.” It’s important for children to know what's appropriate both physically and conversationally. Let your kids know that anyone who crosses those boundaries is doing something wrong. Teach them to tell you about it right away.
- Encourage your kids to stay in groups of three. "Groups of 3" is a rule that we heavily emphasize at Camp both with our campers and with our staff. We never allow anyone to be alone with another person. It may seem extreme, especially if it's someone you trust, but this safeguard can go a long way in protecting your child. Encourage them to follow the Groups of 3 rule at church events, in child care settings, and even on play dates at a best friend's house. There's power and accountability in numbers.
- Lastly, ask organizations about their hiring (or volunteer recruiting) processes. Any organization that cares for kids should have specific pieces in their hiring and training processes to protect kids from potential abuse. If the place you’re sending your child can’t tell you anything about their screening or protection processes, you might want to think twice before using it. At COCUSA, we utilize background checks, personal and professional references, and interviews to screen our potential staff. After they are hired, we also train them in key procedures that relate to child safety.
As parents, we have the responsibility to protect our kids as much as possible.
So go ahead and give the standard “no candy from strangers” advice to your kids this Halloween. After all, you never know when there might be a candy-sharing boogie-man around the next block. But let’s work on keeping them safe throughout the year too. The awkward conversations or strange looks from other parents are definitely worth it to keep your child safe.