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Practical tools to keep your kids safe in the summertime

Teach your teens to be healthy and safe while they have fun, or forbid too much, and they'll likely stop listening and do their own (more risky) thing
Club dancing. (iStock)
Club dancing. (iStock)

I encourage all parents to empower yourselves with the insight and practical, research-based tools to help your children protect their personal space and remain safe during the summer months. After all, things are less structured during the summertime, and your children are usually exposed to a good number of “new” people.

Studies conclusively indicate that child safety education is very effective, if parents take the time to become familiar with the best practices for having these conversations with your children (here is a free, five-minute video with those best practices).

The tone of these conversations is a prime example of why employing these best practices are so important.  Parents are understandably nervous about the subject of abuse prevention and may think that conveying that anxiety to your children when having “the talk” will help your kids understand the importance of this subject. However, the experts in the field recommend that we only convey a moderate amount of anxiety and do not frighten the children when discussing child safety with them, because research shows when kids (and adults) are frightened, they find it difficult to absorb and retain information.

Another thing to be mindful of especially during the summertime, is to have a heightened level of situational awareness, loosely, knowing what’s going on around you, as it pertains to the supervision of your children, and the possible dangers they might face (here is a video with more on this).

Finally, I encourage parents of pre-teens and especially teenagers to “Plan More and Ban Less,” meaning to collaborate and plan enjoyable, supervised activities for them throughout the summer. Keep in mind that if you fail to do so, you may find yourselves vetoing many or most activities that the kids suggest, until they get fed up and do their own thing.

In the summer of 2007, our community was rocked by a wild scene, including lots of drug use and several arrests, one Saturday night in Monticello, New York, a village in the Catskill Mountains, where thousands of Orthodox Jewish families spend their summers. To raise awareness about this matter, The Jewish Press ran my “It’s One A.M. Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” describing the situation in vivid detail.

Thankfully, several community activists got involved in the planning and supervision of activities for many hundreds of teenagers the following Saturday night, and for the rest of the summer, as I reported in a follow-up column in The Jewish Press “One A.M. – One Week Later.”

Permit me to share the closing lines of that 2007 column with today’s parents of teenagers in the hope that it will motivate you to “Plan More and Ban Less.”

“…we should resist the seductive route of merely “banning” places and activities for our growing teen population. It is entirely appropriate to declare certain areas off-limits for our children, but if we do not create healthy, safe, and enjoyable venues for them, we delude ourselves into thinking we have solved the problems and thereby set the stage for far greater challenges later.”

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founding dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and director of Bright Beginnings, is an innovative educator, author, and child safety advocate. He is the publisher of two child safety books that are in over 120,000 homes in three languages, as well as the groundbreaking Bright Beginnings Gemara and Chumash workbooks that are in over 100 schools. He received the prestigious 2008 Covenant Award in recognition of his contribution to Jewish education. His most recent project is the Bright Beginnings Under-a-Minute Parenting Clips posting daily videos by Rabbi Horowitz on a wide range of topics on Instagram @brightbeginningsforum, and via WhatsApp by messaging “Sign-Up” to 845-540-2414. Rabbi Horowitz conducts child abuse prevention and parenting workshops in Jewish communities around the world.
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