It’s a scary world out there. One of your most important jobs is to teach kids about safety to keep them from becoming victims. As much as you want to wrap your kids up in a big bubble to protect them, the next best thing is helping children understand stranger dangers. Don’t freak them out but talk openly about the dangers that could be lurking virtually anywhere. Once kids have a realistic awareness, they should have the tools they need to avoid getting hurt by strangers. Teach your kids that safety is the bottom line – more important than manners or tattling.
1 Define who a stranger might be for your children. Remember that children and adults may have a different definition of a stranger. For simplicity, a stranger is someone your child doesn’t know, according to the KidPower Web site. Stress to your children that a stranger might be young, old, male or female. A stranger can even look and sound nice. It doesn’t count if your kid has seen someone out and about – this person would still be a stranger.
2 Tell your children that most people they meet and see are good people that they don’t need to worry about. There are some people, though, that want to hurt kids. Stress that it’s not always possible to tell a safe person from an unsafe person. Because it’s hard to tell, you have to be careful and conscientious about everyone to make sure nothing bad happens.
3 Set firm rules for your kids. If your kids are out without a parent or caregiver, they can’t talk to a stranger, take anything from a stranger, or go anywhere with a stranger. If a stranger approaches your kid when she’s by herself, she should look around for another adult and immediately walk away from the stranger toward the other adult. If there is no other adult nearby, she should yell “NO!” and run in a direction where she can find people to help. If a stranger approaches your kids when an adult is present, the rule is that the kids ask before they chat with the stranger.
4 Get creative to bring the lessons home. Tell your kids that some people may lie to get kids to go with them. Common stories include “I am looking for a lost puppy” and “Your mom asked me to pick you up.” By forewarning your kids about some of these tricks, you help them become savvy and sophisticated enough to see through a stranger’s lies. Promise your kids that you will never, ever ask a stranger to pick them up for you.
5 Role-play possible scenarios with your kids to help them practice what they should say and what they should do. This practice helps kids know exactly what they should do and say automatically in a variety of different situations.
6 Talk briefly about inappropriate contact with anyone, even people they know. If anyone treats or ever tries to touch your kids in a way that is scary or confusing, they should get away and come tell you immediately.
- Check your own alarmist tendencies. If you’re freaking about strangers, it’s likely that you’re going to scare your kids as you talk about this subject. Chill out before approaching your kids so you can discuss strangers matter-of-factly without going overboard.
- Strangers are not the most significant threat to kids. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the people who harm children are often those who are on the “inside” -- friends and family who have a trusted connection.
- For the most effectiveness, talk about these issues regularly. By repeating conversations often, you make sure your kids understand the important lessons.
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images