By Lori Melton
Helping your children understand stranger danger is one of the most important lessons you can teach them as a parent. Kids see strangers in multiple settings like stores, movie theaters, the park, and your own neighborhood. Most strangers are nice people who pose no threat. Unfortunately, some strangers are dangerous. Teaching your child how to recognize and handle dangerous situations involving strangers can help prevent harm and maybe even save their life.
Who Are Different Kinds of Strangers?
First, your child needs to understand who a stranger is and which strangers are “safe” strangers. A stranger is basically anyone your family doesn’t know well. When discussing strangers with your children, be sure to tell them not to judge whether someone is safe or not by how they look. Dangerous strangers don’t always look scary, or like a cartoon villain. Explain that sometimes, dangerous strangers can look just like mom or dad and even act nice.
In general, a good rule is for your child to be careful around all strangers. But, it’s also important for him to know which strangers to trust if they feel unsafe. Police, firefighters, and teachers are great examples of “safe” strangers. If your child is lost, feels bullied, threatened or unsafe, these kinds of strangers are easily recognizable and can be asked for help.
No, Go, Yell and Tell
No, Go, Yell, and Tell is a commonly-taught stranger danger safety strategy. Teach your child to look for warning signs and suspicious behavior from strangers. For instance, if a stranger asks her to get in a car, walk somewhere with him, come inside his house, or offers her candy or toys to do any of these types of things, your child should say NO, GO away as fast as they can, YELL for help and TELL a trusted adult or family member what happened.
Trusting Instincts and Defending Themselves
Furthermore, your child should always follow his instincts. Emphasize that he should never obey a stranger’s instruction to do something without his parents’ permission, or to keep a secret. He should also be wary if a stranger asks for help (like finding directions or a lost pet), or tells him his parents are in some sort of trouble and he needs to come with the stranger.
In any of these cases, if your child feels threatened, uncomfortable, or unsafe in any situation, he needs to get away as fast as possible. Tel him it’s okay to yell, scream, kick, fight and do anything they can to protect himself and get away from a dangerous person. You should also point out safe places he can go to ask for help, like your friends’ homes in the neighborhood, a local restaurant or business, grocery store, or police station if it is nearby.
Do Role Play
Get your child comfortable with how she should behave around strangers by participating in role play. Run through some of the suspicious scenarios described above and ask your child to show you the proper way she should respond. Do this frequently, until you and your child are both confident in recognizing a potentially dangerous situation and how she will handle it.
More Safety Tips
Finally, you can help protect your child by setting and enforcing neighborhood boundaries and curfews. For example, he can ride his bike to his friend’s house, your child should call you when he arrives and before he leaves to head home. Tell him exactly how long he can stay or what time he needs to come in from playing outdoors. Also, when possible, encourage your child to play with one or more children. They will be safer in a group than alone. Most importantly, you should keep close tabs on your child and know where he is at all times.