According to Tania Haigh, Founder of Kids Too, single moms already have a full plate, and obstacles like the constant pressure to make decisions simply cause more intimidation and stress. In addition, a Pew study reports that most Americans say women face a lot of pressure to be “involved” mothers.
With that in mind, we love keeping it simple for single moms, and with summertime being a season when parents’ guards may come down a bit and kids live more freely, here are 5 summertime tips to help single moms keep their kids safer.
- Be aware that predators are among us. Summertime brings fun opportunities to travel, which often means a child could be traveling on a plane solo to visit the other parent or to spend part of the summer with relatives. Being aware that predators can lurk in airports will help moms equip their kids to observe their surroundings and know what to do if they feel they’re in danger. In addition, with regard to relatives, it’s important to know that in 90% of instances of child sexual abuse, the predator causing harm is someone the child and family knows. So it’s important for single moms to teach their kids to always communicate with them immediately if anyone (stranger, friend, or relative) initiates any inappropriate touching or exploitative behavior.
2. Keep tabs on who is around your child—both in person and online. With school out for summer break, kids can have varied routines…or no routine at all. This lack of structure combined with a lot of extra free time can lead to excessive use of devices as well as more time spent online using social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook or even gaming on Roblox and other gaming sites. During these activities, kids may find comfort in making connections online, the nebulous concept of “online friends.” But sometimes developing these online friendships means your children are interacting with total strangers who have managed to connect with them. These “online friends” work on building trusting relationships that can lead to offline dangers, such as agreeing to meet in person. Unfortunately, there are too many unknowns about the real identities of these online avatars. So, single moms, just like it’s important to know what friends are hanging out with your children IRL (in real life), monitoring your kids’ online conversations and perhaps eliminating some of their “online friends” is also a significant key to their safety.
3. Be clear about boundaries. Summer is a great season for outings and social gatherings, such as the annual family BBQ at Grandma’s house, block parties bringing neighbors together, or family reunions at the park. Your children may be exposed to lesser-known extended family members who fly in from out of town or neighbors from down the street who consume alcohol around them. In order to feel more at ease, single moms should educate and prepare their children for these social events. Have a conversation with your children about what to watch out for and what it might look like or feel like if an adult or older child/teen makes an inappropriate advance toward them. Also, remind them of your love and protection and that there are no secrets that need to be kept from Mom.
4. Have the “privacy” conversation. As parents, we often think of the school year as the time to get back in the swing of having key conversations with our kids, but in reality, digital safety is one conversation that should be happening year round. Most kids get access to gaming like Roblox and social media channels like TikTok when they’re far too young—long before parents can explain to their kids how important it is for them to keep certain information private. Remind your kids that maintaining privacy—which also keeps them safe—includes not revealing their real names via avatars or account names, never sharing their address or physical location, and never revealing anything about their bodies by taking, sharing, or uploading inappropriate images.
5. Do what you can. Admittedly, single moms face many challenges and obstacles in raising their kids—yet there is support available specifically to keep moms informed and empowered. Keeping your children safe over the summer may mean shifting the talks you have with them from questions like “how was your day at school?” to topics such as “how did it go at your dad’s?” and “who are you gaming with?” and “did anyone make you feel uncomfortable at the pool?” At the end of the day, we want all moms to know that staying involved in your kids’ lives is the key to keeping them safe.
Looking for some summer reading to become even more informed on how to protect your kids? Organizations like Parents Against Child Sex Abuse offer more ways to keep kids safe with their PAXA Pointers Curriculum and the KIDS TOO movement, including a “Watch Out” list for parents.