Teaching children who to trust and who not to is an important lesson that needs to be reiterated throughout childhood. The term “stranger danger” is often used to describe the crux of these lessons and is a term that children can easily identify with in social situations. If you’re struggling with how to approach the subject with your child, the safety tips below can help.
- Have a Safe Word or Phrase
Encourage children to work with you to set up a safe word or phrase that would be used in the event that you could not be there to pick him up or if there was an emergency. It should be something unusual and something that has meaning for your immediate family. That safe word would then be shared with anyone who has been given permission to pick up your child. Make sure your child isn’t afraid to ask for the safe word and model the process of asking for them a few times. Something as silly as, “Daddy has smelly socks” would be perfect, because it’s not a phrase that would normally come up in conversation. A safe word can give your child a much needed sense of security.
- Oh No, Just Don’t Go!
If your child does ask for the safe word and it’s not given, instruct him to turn and run in the opposite direction of the person. This is especially helpful if the stranger is in a car, because it’s a lot harder to turn the car around to follow. Make sure your child knows that they should scream, yell, kick, punch, scratch, and do whatever it takes to get free of someone should they be grabbed. Oftentimes, children don’t fight back, because they’ve been taught not to hit or be disrespectful. In this case though, emphasize that you will absolutely not be upset with them for doing anything they need to do to get to safety.
- Find a Trusted Adult
In your discussions about who is a stranger and who is not, be sure to point out trusted adults. Police officers, teachers, librarians, people who work at the store, etc. are all adults who your child can go to if they’re lost or if they’re in danger. Although they’re technically strangers, they have been given parental approval!
The most important thing about teaching your child about stranger danger is to emphasize that no matter what, their safety is the most important thing. Encourage them to trust their instincts and if someone makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to get out of that situation. With knowledge and courage, your children can learn to protect themselves.