I have received countless messages over the last week. A large number of them are parents asking for book or video recommendations for their children.
While there are some good books about consent, boundaries and saying no, these are NOT a substitute for you, nor an easier way for you to engage with your child about a subject we all find tricky.
Break it down. Think about the messages we were taught as children and fully understand them and their outcomes.
For example; hugging relatives we don’t actually know, modest clothing are safer, adults know best, children shouldn’t answer back or say no, children should have different words for body parts, communal events being assumed safe, blindly trusting those that work with children, assuming all shul goers are moral, etc etc.
Children cannot learn everything from a book. You need to be consciously aware of the subtle messages society and we tell our children and we need to undo them.
From babyhood we can ask consent from our children when dressing them or for a cuddle and respect their decision. We can regularly remind them the correct names for body parts much like any other body part. We can do role play scenarios about visiting the Dr or situations at school, we can reiterate that they can talk to you about anything that’s bothering them, and be ready to listen to a range of issues from things we would deem ‘minor’ to potentially more severe. We can constantly throughout childhood empower our children to say no to things they don’t want and accept their choices.
What we cannot ask of our children is for them to see the risk. Ultimately they are children and their minds do not work like adults nor do they have the capacity to carry out risk assessments of every situation.
We as parents, caregivers, grandparents, teachers are ultimately responsible for safeguarding the children. This is non negotiable! You cannot replace this with a book!
We need to be carrying out our own risk assessments for our children. At school, on playdates, at camps, at shul, at sporting activities or clubs.
How? Start with the basics. “Please can I see a copy of your safeguarding policy?”
No I don’t believe policies protect our children. But it demonstrates your awareness of risk and makes them update their policy. It raises engagement around safeguarding.
“Who is the designated safeguarding lead?” (Needs to be a named person with contact details)
“What is the staff-child ratio?”
“How are young children supported with toileting?”
“How would you handle a disclosure?” (Do they know who to report it to? Or what agency to engage?)
For clubs and activities that have volunteers or youth (AKA children) running programmes, “who is the person responsible in the event of an emergency?”
Have you given consent for your child’s photo to be/not taken? Have you given consent for an ambulance to be called in case of emergency?
I understand parents are at times desperate for childcare and there is pressure too book while space is available. But if we don’t all start pushing for better safeguarding, then sadly nothing will change. The providers are only going to meet the minimum standards required unless we demand better.
I am not suggesting you see everyone as a perpetrator, but rather you see everyone as rightly deserving scrutiny for your own reassurances.
Look at it as if we didn’t have a kashrut authority and we had to scrutinise every package label. Inspect your child’s safety as you would the things you eat.
So please, read to your children, talk to your children, but don’t make them responsible for their own safeguarding.