Published on November 2nd, 2016 | by SOMDParents0
Stranger Danger is one of the many things we teach our children before the age of 4 or 5 when they go off to school. Naturally, we want to protect our children from those who wish to harm them, but we don’t always know what to say. We don’t want to scare our children into thinking everyone is out to get them, but we also want to make sure they are aware of the people around them.
The best way to explain what a stranger is to a child is by describing anyone that your family doesn’t know well. It’s common for children to think that “bad strangers” look scary, like the villains in cartoons. This is not only false, but it’s dangerous for children to think this way. Nice looking strangers can be just as dangerous as the not-so-pretty ones. When you talk to your children about strangers, explain that no one can tell if strangers are nice or not nice just by looking at them and that they should be careful around all strangers regardless of appearance
Not all strangers are bad! If children need help–whether they’re lost, being threatened by a bully, or being followed by a stranger–the safest thing for them to do in many cases is to ask another stranger for help. You can make this easier for them by telling them what kind of strangers are more trustworthy.
Safe strangers are people children can ask for help when they need it. Police officers and firefighters are two examples of very recognizable safe strangers. Teachers, principals, and librarians are adults children can trust too, and they are easy to recognize when they’re at work. Unfortunately, police officers and firefighters are not always on hand when an emergency situation arises. Children can be taught to seek out a mother with children if there are no recognizable law enforcement or public safety workers in the area. Store employees and event staff are preferable to store patrons because they are at work and responsible for keeping everything running smoothly. Above all else, make sure that you emphasize that whenever possible, children should go to a public place to ask for help.
Perhaps the most important way parents can protect their children is to teach them to be wary of potentially dangerous situations – this will help them when dealing with strangers as well as with known adults who may not have good intentions. Help children recognize the warning signs of suspicious behavior, such as when an adult asks them to disobey their parents or do something without permission, asks them to keep a secret, asks children for help, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way. Also tell your children that an adult should never ask a child for help, and if one does ask for their help, teach them to find a trusted adult right away to tell what happened. Adults should never ask a child for help–no matter the circumstance.
You should also talk to your children about how they should handle dangerous situations. One way is to teach them “No, Go, Yell, Tell.” If in a dangerous situation, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can, and tell a trusted adult what happened right away. Make sure that your children know that it is okay to say no to an adult in a dangerous situation and to yell to keep themselves safe, even if they are indoors. It’s good to practice this in different situations so that your children will feel confident in knowing know what to do. Here are a few possible scenarios:
- A stranger approaches your child in the park and asks for help finding their lost dog.
- A woman who lives in your neighborhood but that the child has never spoken to invites your child into her house for a snack.
- A stranger asks if your child wants a ride home from school.
- Your child thinks he or she is being followed.
- An adult your child knows says or does something that makes him or her feel bad or uncomfortable.
- While your child is walking home from a friend’s house, a car pulls over and a stranger asks for directions.
In addition to teaching children how to recognize and handle dangerous situations and strangers, there are a few more things parents can do to help their children stay safe and avoid dangerous situations.
- Know where your children are at all times. Make it a rule that your children must ask permission or check in with you before going anywhere. Give your children your work and cell phone numbers so they can reach you at all times.
- Point out safe places. Show your children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there’s trouble.
- Teach children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell an adult. Tell them that sometimes adults they know may make them feel uncomfortable, and they should still get away as fast as possible and tell another adult what happened. Reassure children that you will help them when they need it.
- Teach your children to be assertive. Make sure they know that it’s okay to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in dangerous situations.
- Encourage your children to play with others. There’s safety in numbers!
Check Family Watchdog for convicted and/or registered sex offenders in your area!
For more information on strangers and protecting children, register for “Stranger Danger,” a workshop at The Promise Resource Center on November 9th from 6:30pm-8:30pm. Call 301-290-0040 to sign up! The cost of the workshop is $25 for members and $30 for non-members.