Sunday, August 4, 2013

Teaching Children Stranger Danger

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Let's face it.  It's a parent's greatest fear.... a stranger with their child.  It's a sad and sickening fact of the world today that we have to arm our children with the knowledge of how dangerous others can be in order to keep them safe.  If you missed it last week, you can check out my post on things that parents can do to keep their kids safe at home.

Talking with children about strangers is something that has to be tapered to their age and development, but there are some key points that parents can address.  Here are some tips on how to talk to your children about stranger safety. 

What is a Stranger?
I'm sure there is at least one time that we can all recall where we've encouraged our children to be polite to or speak to someone they didn't know.  So what makes a stranger someone to be wary of?  Keep it simple.  A stranger is someone you haven't met before, don't know their name, or even just someone that your child hasn't spent much time around.  As a general rule of thumb, when Mommy/Daddy/Grandma/etc isn't around the child to allow the conversation, it shouldn't happen. (unless they are lost)
Have a Buddy
There's safety in numbers.  remind your children that it's not a safe thing to walk alone to or from school, or to go to the park.

Don't Open the Door
If you have child that stays home alone or is sometimes unsupervised while you do housework or the like, it might be wise to instate a house rule that they aren't to answer the door unless you are with them.  This didn't actually occur to me the other night until we had pizza delivered and my son eagerly headed to the door and opened it up without hesitation. 

Know Their Tricks
Talk with your child about the tricks that some people use to get kids to go with them.  We know some of them.. The stranger could be asking for directions or using the age old "can you help me find my puppy?" or "I'll share some candy with you if you..."  By giving our children concrete examples of possible scenarios, it can help them know what to look out for.
Create a Safe Word
I=If for some reason, a person they don't know (or even someone they're vaguely familiar with) approaches them and says that the child's parents asked them to pick the child up from school, the park, etc. using a "safe" or "code" word can make all the difference.  If the person doesn't know the code word, the child should immediately get away from the individual.  We had one of these when Pip was younger.  And it was an obscure word, one she knew and could easily remember, but not one that related to anything that she participated in.  For instance, the word "soccer" wouldn't necessarily be the best to use for your little soccer player. But something like "nuclear poop" is just odd enough that it can't be easily guessed.
Know Parents' Info
Children as young as 2 or 3 can be taught to know their parent's names.  Older children can memorize their phone number and/or address.  This can benefit them if they get separated or lost in public.
Fight or Flight
iIf a stranger somehow gets ahold of your child, they need to know what to do to let bystanders know that they are in an unsafe situation.  There are several things they can do aside from running away as fast as they can.  I=In a somewhat recent event, a brave 7 yr old girl fought off an abductor in a Walmart store by kicking and physically struggling when he grabbed her.  Other things that children can do to create signs of a struggle that will alert people around them is to yell loudly "This isn't my mom/dad" or "I don't know you".  These simple and clear statements can help people around them to distinguish between a child being abducted versus a child having a temper tantrum.
The Button Rule
This suggestion may be best used for older children because of it's intensity.  If for some reason, God forbid, your child happens to find themselves in a stranger's car or house, here's a tip I saw on America's Most Wanted years ago.  If they are able to pull a button off of their clothes, bite off a nail, or get a few strands of their hair and put it in the door well of the car, on a nearby bench, etc, it could help in finding them.
Do you have any tips or posts about teaching children stranger danger?

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