Stranger danger, are the buzz words commonly used to refer to the important topic of teaching children about the inherent dangers they may face as they venture out into the world. Unfortunately the world is a scary place and there are people out there who prey on children. No doubt, it is a very important issue that all parents must address and one that requires ongoing, open communication with their children. The single most important thing to remember when teaching your children about stranger danger is to instill confidence, rather than fear.
You want to equip your child with the knowledge and strategies they will need to protect themselves in dangerous situations. Also, keep your child's age and maturity level in mind and base lessons upon that. Again, stranger danger lessons should be ongoing – adapt the conversation as your child grows as he/she is likely to encounter different types of situations.
First and foremost, children need to understand what you mean by stranger. Not all people unknown to them are necessarily dangerous–they need to understand the difference between “good” and “bad” strangers; an overly simplistic dichotomy, but one that puts the issue in terms a child can understand. This is important so children understand where and to whom to turn if they are ever lost or feel scared, threatened, or if they think someone may be following them.
If they are approached by a “bad” stranger who tries to lure or physically pull them away, the best thing they can do is get the attention of other adults - whether that is by running to the nearest home, or making enough noise to be heard by someone, the vast majority of adults will help a child in danger.
Additionally, the following are important tips and strategies for children to protect themselves:
- Know your name, address, and phone number.
- Use the buddy system – avoid walking anywhere alone.
- Trust your instincts – if you feel you are being followed or something is not right, seek help immediately.
- If a stranger approaches you, you do not have to speak to him or her. Never approach a stranger in a motor vehicle. Just keep walking. Do not accept candy or any other items from a stranger. Never walk off with a stranger no matter what he or she tells you.
- If someone is following you try to remember the license plate of his or her vehicle and immediately tell a trusted adult.
- If a stranger grabs you, do everything you can to stop him or her from pulling you away or dragging you into his or her car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite, and scream. Do whatever it takes to attract the attention of others who can help you. If someone is dragging you away, scream, "this is not my dad," or "this is not my mom."
Please share your tips on discussing Stranger Danger on LongIsland.com's Parenting Forum