Family Safe Words and Their Importance

We have a family safe word. In our family, we always discuss the importance of his safety with our oldest child. From an early age, he was jumping on strangers’ laps at the park and giving out hugs. When he was at this young age, I wanted him to be more cautious. As most parents know — not so easy when they are toddlers. Frankly, I hate as a parent that we have to have ‘the safety conversation.’ This feels like the beginning of when the world of rainbows and sunshine starts to fade a bit when, as parents, we have to share that there are not good people out there. How my husband and I describe unsafe situations is that anyone who wants to harm them will go to great lengths to do this. We have also stressed, and as a parent, I feel this part is vital to share with your children, that the ‘boogie man’ can look just like us. They also can be someone the kid ‘kind of’ knows.

What is a family safe word?

A family safe word is a code term that you, as a family, decide and use as a safety measure. The point of the family safe word is that it is for the immediate family only and is there to help keep our children stay safe.

How does a family safe word work?

Every family is unique on how they use the family safe word. How you use the family safe word is according to your family guidelines. Some families use the word for their child as their child’s way of communicating if they are uncomfortable or in a threatening situation. For example, if child X is at a family gathering and someone related or non-related has made child X uncomfortable, then child X uses this word as a code word. This allows your child to feel they can communicate with their parents if they are in some type of profoundly uncomfortable situation.

Other families save it for more narrow situations. This can be strictly when out in public places such as amusement parks or museums. It is best not to abuse the word. This is an emergency only word and should be treated as such.

How to choose a family safe word

For starters, the family safe word should not be a word your family uses daily. The word doesn’t have to be super complicated but should not be a word easy to find out via social media. Not your pet turtle’s name, not a nickname. Be creative and think out of the box and repeat the word for the first few weeks in private. During dinner is a great time. Some websites list the common safe words that you can pick for your family. However, now that these words are listed out in the world, how are they safe? An example of a safe word? Bacteria. Yup, it’s a bit weird, but it’s not that hard to remember a word like bacteria. My suggestion is to choose a word that someone outside of the family would never guess is your safe word.

Word rules

It is a good idea to go over the ground rules with your children on the terms of how you use this word. Once you share the word (for whatever reason, it’s life-situations happen), then a new word needs to be picked.

It is important to remember that a family safe word is a step in overall safety for your family. A family safe word is not a green light for your child to take off with a stranger if they have miraculously guessed the word. Explaining how overall safety looks for your family is key. There is no right or wrong. This is how safety looks for my family. How your family implements safety is for your comfort level and your parenting prerogative.