Protecting Our Children: Essential Strategies Every One Should Know

By: Steff Willis

As parents, caregivers, or simply adults in the lives of children, it’s our responsibility to equip our young ones with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate our world.

Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of abuse in Australia this includes trying to prevent the unthinkable.

In a recent podcast episode, Kim Kellaway shared the ugly truth of abuse in Australia but also the strategies we can teach our children to help prevent it.

Kim Kellaway founded Children’s Safety Australia Inc. in 2008 to address the lack of awareness of both the personal safety risks facing children and practical strategies protective adults can share to help keep them safe. Kim has over 33 years policing experience, predominantly in crime prevention, training and leadership roles and she’s developed programs and key safety messages that parents and caregivers can teach in a non-threatening way.

Understanding the Risks

Kim Kellaway shared results from a recent study into the prevalence and impact of child maltreatment in Australia which revealed that approximately one-third of children may experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, with exposure to domestic violence affecting nearly 40% of children. Shockingly, the majority of abuse occurs at the hands of individuals known to the child, dispelling the myth or overemphasis on teaching ‘stranger danger’ to children.

Instead of relying on ‘stranger danger’ messages or simply trying to hide our children from the world, Kim advocates starting early with a pro-active approach.

“It’s not about scaring” Kim said.

“I want people to be aware that these risks exist, but there are some really great, practical, confidence-building messages we can teach kids.”

Four Essential Safety Messages

Kim introduced four core safety messages that form the backbone of empowering kids and keeping them safe which can be introduced from a very early age.

1. I’m Special, So Are You

This first safety message is about building a healthy self-esteem and encourage respect and empathy for others. The link between self-esteem and mental, physical and emotional wellbeing has long been recognised and in relation to sexual abuse, children with a high self-esteem are less likely to be targeted by offenders.

When adapting this message as children grow up, Kim recommends tweaking ‘I’m special, so are you’ to ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’.

“The importance of being the best you can be rather than trying to replicate somebody else and standing by your values” Kim said.

“‘People treat us how we let them. That’s a really important message for teenagers, for adults, for anyone actually, but the teenagers particularly.”

2. Safety Is My Right

Having the right to be safe with people means children have a responsibility to maintain their own safety and to take action if their safety is threatened. They also have a responsibility to respect others’ right to safety.

This is not about unnecessary restrictions on children’s lives or in any way diminish their spirit of fun and adventure. Kim encouraged protective adults to teach children and teens about the difference between fear and feeling unsafe when it’s fun and our choice (e.g. a rollercoaster or a scary movie), feeling fear that’s not fun but it’s our choice (e.g. giving a presentation or going to the dentist) and when it’s not our choice and not fun.

“If we’re being chased by a dog, we’re driving in a car with someone who has been drinking, if we’re being sexually abused by someone who we know… these things cause us to feel early warning signs, but it’s not our choice and it’s not fun, so that’s a personal emergency.”

3. My Body Belongs to Me

One of the most powerful messages to convey to children to prevent them from becoming a victim of sexual abuse is that their body belongs to them, and no one is allowed to touch their body without their permission.

“As soon as [children] start speaking and learning about the names of [their] body parts, teaching the anatomically correct names of private parts, as well as other parts of her body” Kim said.

“A lot of people have pet names for their private parts. Unfortunately, it makes reporting. sexual abuse very difficult.”

4. I Can Get Help

This final safety message is about equipping children with the knowledge of who to go to for help and encouraging them to speak up.

“For children, we use our hands to show a network of five people who we trust, who will believe us, who are available, and who will help us if we need help” Kim said.

As children grow, they might not have a safety network per se, but encouraging children to think about who they trust in life and the benefits of sharing challenges and problems you’re facing with those trusted people.

For ideas on how to incorporate these strategies into your parenting and caregiving, check out the Child’s Safety Information Sheet for Protective Adults.

Kim’s advice is a vital reminder that child safety isn’t just about protection—it’s about empowerment. It’s about giving children the voice and knowledge they need to navigate the world safely and confidently.

Article supplied with thanks to 96five.

Feature image: Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash