Talking to your child about about strangers can be a tricky conversation. We teach children to obey adults, and to not yell or scream indoors. However, those rules change when talking about strangers and dangerous situations.
How do we explain to kids what changed and how they should distinguish the difference? According to the National Crime Prevention Council, there are several ways to prepare children for unforeseen circumstances.
Define the Term “Stranger”
A stranger is anyone we don’t know well, and they aren’t always scary looking. Kids often have a picture in their mind of the bad guy they saw in a movie or the villain in a book they’ve read. We can’t determine if a person is a stranger just by the way they look. By age 4, kids should be able to play a “game” with you to decide who is a stranger and who is not.
Questions like, “Is the mailman a stranger?” can help kids with the thought process that you may see this person every day, but that doesn’t make them someone we “know.” Ask questions like, “If so-and-so came to pick you up from school, should you go with them?”
Point out safe strangers and places when you see a police officer, a librarian, or a mother with children. Show them where the local fire station is, the nearest grocery store or friends’ homes.
Arm Kids with Information
As soon as possible, children should learn your phone number and their address. In case you get separated, they know how to get ahold of you.
Certain situations are always dangerous. These include when a stranger in a car stops and asks for a child’s help, when an adult wants a kid to keep a secret, or when an adult asks a child to go to a separate location, away from others. Teach your child to know when to be leery of an adult’s instruction and they have permission to disobey it.
Identify Strangers Online
It doesn’t take much for kids to feel like they know someone on the internet. They’ve talked to them before, they met them on a game in the past and suddenly, everyone is “friends.” However, the person they think they’re talking to could be an adult.
Teach kids to never play a game or have a conversation with someone online they don’t know personally. If something seems inappropriate, or something makes them feel uncomfortable, log off and tell a trusted adult.
Talk to your phone or internet company about safety measures you can implement, such as blocks on inappropriate websites, monitoring devices to see what sites your child is visiting online and more.
Trust Your Instincts
The best piece of advice: Teach kids to trust their instincts. This rule applies with people you know and those you don’t know. Kids should know that if it doesn’t feel right, they should listen to their gut. Get away from the situation and tell an adult they trust immediately. Teach your children that they have the right to get out of the situation, and you will back them up.