As children grow up and gain more independence, it can be hard for parents to let go. But let’s be real, you can’t be with your child every waking breath – and nor would they want you to be.
So, how can you keep them safe as they begin to figure out life for themselves and distance themselves from you? Which is a very natural part of growing up, btw.
One solution, according to Dannah Eve – aka the Street Smart Blonde – is to have a code word with your child so they can let you know discreetly if something isn’t quite right.
“This is something that I had with my parents growing up. This is something that I’ve used throughout my entire life. And this is something that, to this day, we still use,” Eve, who has a degree in criminology, said in a TikTok video.
“Now this could be used in a dangerous situation, or just in simple situations where your child wants you to be the one to say ‘no’ to something.”
Why is a code word helpful?
A code word can help children let their parents know they need help while avoiding embarrassment or bullying by their peers.
“The idea is that when your teen says the word or phrase, you’ll come to pick them up. Make sure that it’s a no-questions-asked/judgment-free commitment,” say experts at Loudoun Paediatric Associates.
“You can talk about the situation later. Getting them out safely is the priority. No questions asked encourages teens to reach out without fear of being punished.”
Some examples of where this might work, include:
- If someone else needs to pick your child up from school, give the individual the code word so your child knows they are trusted. Let the child know they shouldn’t go with anyone who doesn’t know the code word – no matter how convincing they might seem.
- If a child is home alone and somebody enters the home (whether a stranger or friend) and they don’t feel safe, they can call their parents and work the code word into the conversation.
- If your child wants to get out of doing something with their friends or wants to come home, but doesn’t want to feel like the bad guy, they can use the code word. For example, if they want to leave a party early or they don’t want to stay over at a friend’s house.
Which code word should I choose?
The code word can be anything that your child would feel comfortable using in a conversation but isn’t hugely obvious or something you use as a family on a daily basis. It might help to chat to them about it and you can come up with a word (or phrase) together.
In a separate video, Eve suggests the code word could be a sport nobody in the family plays, or a food that nobody likes.
So if the code word is ‘ballet’ and your teen is at a party that is getting out of hand, they could send a simple text such as: “Hey, meant to ask, how did Sam’s ballet recital go today?” Immediately, you’ll know something isn’t right and can go and pick them up.
Once you’ve agreed on the word, let your child know they can use it whenever they need help or support, and remind them to keep the word to themselves – they shouldn’t share it with friends or anyone else.
“There are truly so many benefits to having a family code word,” Eve added.