Probably the most important job of a parent is keeping their children safe. This is no small task! As a parent, you really cannot go too far when it comes to talking to your children about stranger danger.
Don’t Talk to Strangers
This is probably the number one thing that parents can drill into their children. Kids need to know that not all “bad guys” look mean or disheveled. Some of the worst child molesters are those who appear to be normal, everyday people that don’t stand out in a crowd at all, and who may approach children with the age-old “please help me find my puppy” types of lines to lure them. Teach your child that he or she should not talk to strangers, regardless of how friendly they appear.
When your children are very small, they are usually never out of your sight. As they become a bit older, they may have certain independent privileges, such as walking to a nearby friend’s home, walking to a store, walking home from school, etc. While these may be developmentally appropriate privileges, try to make sure that your child never walks alone, no matter how short the walk is. Be sure your child uses the buddy system, and that he or she understands there is an increased safety level when they are not alone. Children in pairs or groups are far less likely to be approached by strangers. Also, make sure your children always tell you where they are going, with who, how they are getting there and when they will be returning, no matter how old they are.
Statistics show that most crimes committed against children are by people they know well, people that usually nobody would suspect. Relatives, neighbors, coaches, babysitters, and other trusted individuals can often be the perpetrator. Children are less likely to report abuse by these trusted people, for fear they will get into trouble. Be sure that your children can be confident that you will immediately put a stop to any uncomfortable situation for them, and that you would never permit a trusted person to hurt them in any way.
Teach your children to use their voice. They should know that if they are ever approached by a stranger, that it is okay to scream and yell and try to alert anyone nearby. They should know that if they are ever grabbed or if anyone tries to abduct them, then they should kick, bite, pull hair, hit or struggle any way they can to try and deter the attack.
Your child should know exactly how to get help in the event that they are approached, lost or become separated from you or the group they are in. Some experts recommend teaching small children to look for a “mommy,” or a woman with children, rather than a policeman. Another mother is very likely to assist a small, lost, scared child. Though helpful, policemen can be imposing figures, and some children who become separated or lost may worry they are going to get into trouble. Having an adult that can be trusted can make them feel safer, and another adult may be able to find help faster. Also, teach children your phone number (including area code) and address. As they get older, be sure that they also know the numbers for a couple of trusted family members in case of emergency.
Stranger danger is a real fear for most parents. Arming your children with tips and strategies to help keep them safe and keep danger away can offer a certain level of security, though it cannot prevent all situations from occurring. Keeping the lines of communication open with your children at all times is always the best course of action for keeping your child safe.