Ask yourself, “How well do I know the people my child is with?” Here are some things you can do to assess your child’s safety with another adult:
- Get to know the person. Make sure you have a phone number where you can reach him or her.
- Observe the person with your child or other children.
- Talk with other adults who know that person to get a better sense of him or her.
- Ask your child how she or he feels about the person and what happens when they are together.
- Notice if a person is unusually friendly and helpful to you or gives your child gifts or treats often, unexpectedly, or for no particular reason.
- Make surprise visits when your child is with this person.
- Continue to check in on how things are going over the course of time.
- Pay attention to your child’s response to people he or she spends time with.
- Does your child show reluctance or fear about someone?
- Does your child talk about not liking someone or not wanting to see or visit that person?
- Does your child seem secretive about how time is spent with a particular person?
- If your child is going on to play with a new friend, take the time to make sure you can trust that friend’s adult family members to supervise your child.
Many of the points above apply to older kids as well; some just need to be framed differently. Here are some additional tips:
- Get to know the parents or caregivers of your kids’ friends. Talking over the phone or email works, but in-person visits (such as having coffee together) are ideal.
- If your child is going to be at a party without you, find out who else will be there, and make sure adults will be present.
- Notice if an adult is unusually friendly or helpful to you and your child.
- Establish a system of checking in: who, where, and when. For example, “I’m going to be at the mall with Torrie until 5,” and have them check in again if something changes: “We decided to go to Torrie’s house instead. Her mom is home.”
- Checking in should go both ways, so be sure your child knows where you are, when you’ll be back, and how to reach you: “I have a late meeting at work, so I won’t be home until 6, but you can call my cell if you need me.”