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As a parent, you probably feel like you have to maintain a careful balance between protecting your kids’ physical safety and protecting their innocence. You don’t want to scare them, but you also want them to know how to respond if a self-defense situation does arise that will require them to react quickly.
By preparing for basic self-defense situations with your family, however, you can be sure that you and they will be ready for whatever comes your way.
Think About Where You Are Most Often
Where do you spend the most time with your kids? Do you find yourself out shopping on a regular basis? Is the park your favorite hangout? Take the time to think about the places where you find yourselves most often, including your own home. Imagine the scenarios that you’re attempting to prepare for. Do you worry more about “stranger danger“, or is there someone specific who comes to mind when you imagine a need for self-defense?
Think about the scenarios that are the most likely as well as the ones that worry you the most.
Set Basic Rules In Place
When you have young children, it’s critical that you have a few basic rules that your children know to follow no matter what the emergency might be. As you start thinking defensively, make sure your children know those basic rules.
For example, your children might need to know:
- How to respond if a stranger asks for their help. Remember, strangers should always ask adults, not kids, for assistance!
- What to do if someone grabs them that they don’t know. Remind them to kick up a ruckus. Older kids, especially boys, might need to be reminded not to try to handle a situation on their own, but to bring help to them by shouting!
- Where to go to find a safe person if you’re otherwise engaged. Teaching your kids to find a uniformed police officer is great, but that only works if you’re lucky enough to have one around when you’re in trouble! Teaching kids to find another mom or dad with children is a great way to ensure that they’ll end up with someone safe in an emergency.
- Who they aren’t supposed to go with. If there’s a family member who is a problem, make sure kids know that they aren’t supposed to go with them if they show up at school.
You should also have a word or phrase in place that tells your kids that you mean business and they need to listen to you now. When you use this phrase, there’s no arguing—just instant obedience. This phrase is good for emergencies that aren’t self-defense situations, too: weather emergencies that come on suddenly or fires, for example.
Discuss Scenarios Specific To Your Family
Some families find themselves in more need of self-defense discussions than others. If your family has a specific situation that you’re worried about, make sure you talk about it! Preparing your kids ahead of time will allow them to respond with less fear and panic if a situation does arise.
Talk about people who are a danger to your family.
If you have sole custody of your children and the noncustodial parent is sniffing around, make sure the kids know about it—and that they understand to find a responsible adult and notify you if they see them.
If you have another family member or old friend who has become a problem, let kids know to look out for them. You don’t want them to inadvertently go with someone because they still think they’re “safe.”
Talk about the weapons you carry.
If you carry a gun or knife for self-defense, make sure that the kids know that you have it and where you carry it. Teach your kids and your spouse not to crowd the hand you use to draw your weapon. Those few seconds can be a huge difference in an emergency.
Talk about dangerous situations you’ll be in together.
Do you have to walk through a bad part of town to get to a specific destination? Is your neighborhood less than savory? Be sure that the kids know to be on their guard in those specific situations.
Not talking about it won’t make bad situations go away. Talking about it won’t stop it, but it will prepare your kids. Their mental preparations will help them respond appropriately in an emergency.
Practice Common Sense
One of the most important details of self-defense, whether by yourself or with your family, is avoiding bad situations. If a situation feels bad, trust your gut!
Otherwise, a few common sense tips can help you stay out of trouble:
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Wait until you’re in the car or in a safe building to check your cell phone—and encourage older kids to do the same.
- Make eye contact with people as you’re walking through the parking lot. Make it obvious that you’re paying attention and that you’ve seen them.
- Practice de-escalation habits. You’re better off handing over your wallet than you are fighting a thief. Make a habit of not carrying much cash, and it won’t be an issue: you can always cancel your cards.
- Never go with someone who wants to remove you from a location. You’re better off fighting when there are people around then letting them get you alone.
- Choose your parking spot carefully, especially at night. Choose in favor of lighting and being as close as possible to the building.
As you’re practicing common sense strategies for self-defense, discuss them with your kids. Talk about why you do things. Don’t simply assume that the kids will absorb it; instead, provide them with the information they need to be safe whether you’re with them or not.
Self-Defense at Home
No matter how safe your neighborhood is, the possibility exists that someone will break into your home. Many people plan to deal with this by “having a gun,” but having one alone isn’t enough. You need to practice with it on a regular basis, store it properly so that it is easily accessible to you but not to children or intruders, and make sure that you have a plan in place for how to use it legally.
A few other preparation tips will help ensure that your family is protected against intruders:
If you have weapons, make sure your kids know what to do with them.
Little ones should know the three basic rules of gun safety: don’t touch, get out of the room, and tell an adult. As they get older, gauge your kids’ responsibility levels and teach them age-appropriate (and capability-appropriate) firearm safety.
Have a plan in place for how you will deal with a home invasion.
Discuss it with your spouse. For example, you might decide that one of you should grab the kids and get them to safety while the other one engages with the invaders. If you know how you’re going to react before an emergency happens, you’ll be better able to respond when it comes.
Know the laws in your state.
Legally, most states will not allow you to pursue someone who is attempting to flee your home. Those laws may dictate whether you have the right to attack someone who is simply on your property or if they must have passed the threshold of the house with intent to do harm to you and your family members. “Castle law,” which allows you to have a weapon for protection of your home even if you aren’t licensed to carry in your state, may dictate what weapons you’re able to have.
Make sure you’re familiar with the laws so that you don’t go outside them in protecting your family.
Check your exits.
If at all possible, you want to get your family out of the house in the event of a home invasion. Check your exits and make sure that everyone knows where to go, even if it’s the middle of the night and they’re sleepy and confused. Ideally, you want to have multiple exits available. In the event that the exits aren’t an option, know where you would prefer to make your stand.
The best way to prepare your family for a situation in which they might have to defend themselves is to talk about it. The last thing you want in the middle of an emergency is a crying child who is wrapped around your leg and panicking instead of going where they need to go—or worse, ignoring you and running in exactly the wrong direction. By taking the time to set a few basic rules in place for yourself and your family, you can increase the odds that they’ll stay calm in spite of the danger.