ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Schools child psychologist Carole Fuller is hoping resources about child safety and anxiety will help parents and students better cope with the Summer Wells disappearance.
This week Fuller shared with the Times News some of the information that will be made available to parents and/or children when the school year begins next month.
One example Fuller recommends was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
Tips For Talking to Your Child About Abduction
1. Don’t forget your older children. Children aged 11 to 17 are equally at risk of victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand important safety rules as well.
2. Speak in a calm, nonthreatening manner. Children do not need to be frightened to get the point across. Fear can actually work at cross-purposes to the safety message, because fear can be paralyzing to a child.
3. Speak openly about safety issues. Children will be less likely to come to you if the issue is shrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject matter, they may be more forthcoming.
4. Do not confuse children with the concept of “strangers.” Children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might. The “stranger- danger” message is not effective, as danger to children is much greater from someone you or they know than from a “stranger.”
5. Practice what you talk about. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice “what if” scenarios.
6. It is more important to get out of a threatening situation than to be polite. They also need to know that it is OK to tell you what happened and that they won’t be a tattletale.
The Most Important Things to Explain
1. Children should always check first with you or a trusted adult before they go anywhere, accept anything, or get into a car with anyone. This applies to older children as well.
2. Children should not go out alone and should always take a friend when they go places or play outside. It’s OK to say no if someone tries to touch them or treats them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, and to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
3. Children need to know that they can tell you or a trusted adult if they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
4. Children need to know that there will always be someone to help them and that they have the right to be safe.
Another resource Fuller will offer parents and students is available on www.parents.com:
Stranger Safety Tips for Kids and Parents
Instead of saying: Don’t talk to strangers.
Say: Check with me or your dad or your babysitter before talking to another grown-up.
Instead of saying: If you get lost in a store, ask a trusted adult to help you find me.
Say: If you get lost in a store, stay in the building and find someone with a name tag to help you.
Instead of saying: Don’t take candy from a stranger.
Say: Don’t take anything from anyone except your parents, babysitter, teacher, or friend’s mom or dad on a playdate.
Instead of saying: Don’t leave my sight.
Say: Don’t go where you can’t see me.
Instead of saying: Don’t keep secrets.
Say: A surprise is the only secret that’s OK to keep.
What to Teach Kids 4 Years and Under
• Their first and last name, the first thing an employee will ask your child when she’s lost.
• Your full name. If he knows you only as “Mommy,” you can’t be paged by name.
• Don’t go anywhere with, accept anything from, or get into a car with anyone. Never, without your permission, period.
What to Teach Kids 5-7 Years Old
• Your cell phone number. You can be reunited more quickly if you get separated.
• A “safe list.” Instead of saying, “Don’t talk to strangers,” list three to five people who are always OK for your child to talk to.
What to Teach Kids 8 Years and Older
• An easy-to-find meeting place — the more specific the location, the better — if you get separated.
• A buddy or a sibling to come along to places (like a restroom) your child is starting to visit independently. There’s more safety in numbers.
• To beware of grown-ups asking for help and to never approach a car. Tell your child to yell loudly if anyone tries to make him go somewhere.
Fuller said she also recommends information she accessed from www.childmind.com:
”What to Do (And Not Do) When Children Are Anxious”
Here are 10 tips for coping with child anxiety by Dr. Clark Goldstein.
1. The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety, but to help a child manage it: Help them learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as they can, even when they’re anxious. And as a byproduct of that, the anxiety will decrease or fall away over time.
2. Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious: Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run.
3. Express positive — but realistic — expectations: You can’t promise a child that their fears are unrealistic, but you can express confidence that they’re going to be OK, will be able to manage it, and that, as they face their fears, the anxiety level will drop over time.
4. Respect feelings, but don’t empower them: Help them understand what they’re anxious about and encourage them to feel that they can face their fears.
5. Don’t ask leading questions. Encourage your child to talk about feelings, but try not to ask leading questions. To avoid feeding the cycle of anxiety, just ask open-ended questions.
6. Don’t reinforce the child’s fears: What you don’t want to do is be saying, with your tone of voice or body language: “Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of.”
7. Encourage the child to tolerate anxiety: Let your child know that you appreciate the work it takes to tolerate anxiety in order to do what they want or need to do.
8. Try to keep the anticipatory period short: When we’re afraid of something, the hardest time is really before we do it. Try to shorten that period to a minimum.
9. Think things through with the child: Sometimes it helps to talk through what would happen if a child’s fear came true — how would she handle it? For some kids, having a plan can reduce the uncertainty in a healthy, effective way.
10. Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety: There are multiple ways you can help kids handle anxiety by letting them see how you cope with anxiety yourself. Kids are perceptive. Let kids hear or see you managing it calmly, tolerating it, feeling good about getting through it.