I never heard of a Family Code of Conduct until recently. Then a few months back, I attended Darkness to Light’s virtual “Envision” conference where I heard the term mentioned more than once. As a strategy to protect kids.
What exactly is a Family Code of Conduct?
According to D2L.org, a Family Code of Conduct is, “… simply a set of guidelines that reflect the values and expectations of your family.”
Corporations often have codes of conduct—a clear set of policies and procedures that outlines what’s expected and appropriate at the company—especially in this day and age of the #MeToo movement. Especially in companies dealing with kids. D2L.org believes every youth serving organization should have a code of conduct in place to protect the children they interact with.
A Family Code of Conduct is similar to that of a company. The document lets each family member know what is expected of and appropriate for every individual.
Your family’s document need not be set in stone.
As the kids you’re raising grow up and change, so should the document. Think, bedtimes and curfews. As a child’s bedtime becomes later, so might their nightly phone usage “deadline.”
When our kids were growing up, sometimes we’d walk by a bedroom and see the glow of a cell phone beneath the covers. At 11 pm. At that point, we’d go in and tell our child to turn off their phone. Sometimes—with a “repeat offender”— we’d confiscate the phone until morning. If we’d created a family code of conduct back then, that might not have been necessary.
Darkness to Light has a terrific template to help you create your own family code of conduct.
The D2L directions (click here) include these guiding statements and questions:
- Define your family’s values.
- Define how your family treats others.
- What are your family’s boundaries and expectations for conduct?
- What are your family’s rules for photographs of children?
- What are your rules for sleepovers—at your house or someone else’s?
- What are your thoughts on babysitters?
- How does your family practice internet and social media safety?
- Do you have certain policies in place for when your kids are at camp, in music lessons, or at sports practices?
As a survivor of child sex abuse (CSA), and also a body safety educator,
I encourage families to think of their family code of conduct as a tool for CSA prevention.
Thinking of my own family setting growing up, and the child safety training I’ve received in recent years, when drafting a family code of conduct, consider items like:
- Undressed bodies—adults and children—stay in bathrooms and bedrooms.
- When friends are over, they stay in public areas of the house (Not in bedrooms, not in basements. Those areas can be “hot spots.”).
- Sleepovers happen on the main floor of the house. If at all.
- Kids won’t get a phone until they’re __ years old.
- Mom and dad (and/or caregivers) will conduct random checks of kids’ phones.
- No one will take pictures or video of any other person’s “bathing suit body parts.”
- Kids won’t add apps on their phones without parental permission.
- Kids won’t play online video games with people they haven’t met in person.
- If someone sends a child an inappropriate photo, the child will immediately tell their parents/caregivers.
- When kids are home alone (ie. after school), they can expect random check-ins by parents, grandparents, and other trusted adults.
- When kids are with a babysitter or at daycare, they can expect random check-ins by parents, grandparents, and other trusted adults.
- Children won’t watch R movies without parental permission.
- A child can tell their parent or caregiver anything. Telling the truth will not get them in trouble.
Use some of the above items, or use none of them. The important thing is that your family’s code of conduct keeps your young people safe. And for sure, don’t draft your family’s document and stick it in a drawer somewhere.
Review your family’s code of conduct on a regular basis.
Whether it’s once a month, once a quarter, or once a year, gather your family together and read your code out loud. Discuss whether each item still applies. Ask your kids if any line items need to be removed or added.
Talk about times when the code of conduct has come in handy.
As important as a family code of conduct is, the opportunities it creates for open, honest conversation are invaluable.
To receive my free family resource, Top Tips for Keeping Kids Safe, be sure to subscribe to my email list! Once a month—no more than that, I promise!— I send out my “Wordy Girl Wisdom,” a variety of super fun and useful life hacks to make your life better.