Understand that some of the topics I’m going to talk about today might be triggering for you if you’ve experienced a traumatic event. You can certainly stop as necessary. It will not be graphic in any way but there’s no way for me to address these topics without actually talking about them.
As parents we want to know how to protect our children. We hear things about predators on social media and game apps and we’ve been raised to think of strangers as dangerous. We’ve done what we know to do to keep our children safe. We may have even taught them literally everything we know about personal safety. Yet we ourselves recognize that we don’t really know enough ourselves so there’s no way we could possibly have given them enough. In fact, we aren’t sure that we’re really keeping ourselves safe. It’s possible that we may have experienced our own traumatic event at some point in the past. It’s a reality that new threats seem to pop up daily, or regularly enough that we likely feel like we cannot keep up. We probably have enough difficulty trying to do the parenting thing. Can I get an amen?
Reducing the noise and giving you the education and tools you need is the focus of the Firebrand Alliance. An alliance of personal safety specialists and coaches who want to give parents, educators, mentors, coaches, and community leaders elemental skills and education to identify abuse, sexual violence and predation. Our purpose is to provide the 20% of information that gives you 80% of the needed value. In particular, the Firebrand Alliance provides education that will help you reduce risk, intervene intelligently, survive a traumatic event, and provide help in the restoration process.
At Firebrand Alliance we understand that it can be overwhelming to try and consider all the things that you might need to know and address. Most parents don’t give it much thought because they simply don’t know where to start. My own parents never spoke to me much beyond taking random swings at stranger danger. We all know there’s a list of things to be concerned about, but we simply don’t have the education or tools to address them. What follows is a glance at some of the biggest topics: bullying, sexual abuse, assault, stalking, dating violence, rape, trafficking/exploitation and even abduction.
Every coach in the Firebrand Alliance has a story that is fully their own. This is what drives us. This is our motivation. Mine goes something like this: As a parent myself I know what it’s like to have those concerns and not have the tools or education to pass it on to my kids. I also have the background and experience of being sexually abused as a child by a neighbor, again later by a community member, and sexually assaulted by a female peer. This gave me the courage to talk to my kids about sex and sexual violence in the best ways I knew how. It was awkward and uncomfortable—absolutely every time.
Mostly I talked with my children about things they could do to protect themselves while attending parties (yes, I assumed they were going to do things I didn’t approve of) or when getting to know someone new. They were all very specific things like keeping their own drinks, getting their own drinks, going with friends and staying with friends and things like that. Then along comes the internet, and I try to keep them from friending people they don’t know, and teaching them that things on the internet simply don’t go away. To be mindful of how they act, what they say, how they dress, what pictures they post, etc. I also did my best to keep an open door to them and watch them for cues. I gave them more than I had ever gotten.
Here’s a hard fact: it simply wasn’t enough.
Looking back, I can see all the things I wish I had done differently—better. The things that probably did more harm than good, and I have to remind myself that I was doing my best with the tools I had at the time. It’s not always an easy pill to swallow. There’s no instruction book. And let’s be honest… I’m a guy, I wouldn’t have used it anyway. I would have at least tried to do it without instructions first.
Here’s the reality: in a single blog post I cannot give you the education you need to navigate all the potholes that exist in parenting. I can however give you some bigger picture principles that will point you in the right direction and point you to some education that can really make a difference.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. For all of the good the internet has brought it’s also true that the introduction of the internet has not made parenting any easier. Your kids have access to influences and ideas from around the world, and a wider group of people see and interact with your kids than is normal. Our parenting hasn’t caught up to it yet. I will also tell you that no software, app, or safety feature will keep your child as safe as you possibly can. I have taken course after course by law enforcement experts and good parenting is always the answer.
Now here’s the actual elephant I was referencing: Most traumatic experiences are caused by the people within your child’s physical sphere. Their coaches, parents, teachers, neighbors, doctors, peers, relatives, community leaders, group leaders, religious leaders, and caregivers. Stranger danger is a thing, but it’s a relatively small thing by comparison. It’s still important enough to pay attention to strangers but let’s not overlook the people who are closest to your children.
Tune in for part 2 soon!