There comes a time when you – as a parent – cannot always keep an eye on your kids.
To ensure the safety of your children – especially when they start to interact more with the outside world – you need to teach kids about strangers.
1. Determine what kind of information you need to pass on to your children about strangers.
Kids at different ages have a different understanding of strangers.
For example, if your child is around 2 or 3 years old, the chances are they cannot distinguish between a friend of the family and an unknown person.
In this case, you should not try to overwhelm them (not that small kids can get everything anyway!) with the “stranger danger” talk.
Instead, let’s opt for basic safety rules.
These include always sticking to their parents or family members, or crying out loud to draw attention if they get lost.
When your child reaches the age of 5 years old, things start to get serious.
There will be times when kids are left all by themselves. What happens at school, at the playground, or inside your home while you are gone – is totally unknown to you.
This is the perfect moment for you to start teaching your child about strangers.
You need to make sure your kids can tell who a stranger is, how to deal with them in specific circumstances, and how they can protect themselves if needed.
2. Explain to your children the concept of strangers.
A stranger – by definition – is someone you do not know.
This is a tender kickoff for kids because you would not want to freak them out.
Let’s start slow and careful. Tell kids that a stranger is not necessarily benevolent or malicious.
But the thing is, we do not know. Will they act in good intentions towards the kids? Or will they try to harm them?
Uncertainty is what makes a stranger a concerning issue, and kids must know about that.
To make sure your children get the whole “stranger talk”, you can arrange a small quiz.
Prepare around 15 to 20 flashcards. Written on each flashcard is the name or the title of a random person. It may be aunt Anna, the mailman, or the lady living next door.
Using chalk, draw two circles on the floor. One is dubbed “Stranger”, the other is dubbed “Not stranger”.
Ask your children to categorize the flashcards into the two mentioned sections.
To turn it into a game, you can set a timer and prepare some incentives. If kids complete the classification in time, give them some sweet treats.
Once everything is done, you can check if your children have got things right. In case they have not, correct them on the spot.
Questions like “Why A is a stranger, and B is not a stranger” may get asked. Address these questions carefully, so your children do not get confused.
3. Show your children whom they can trust.
Understanding about strangers is one thing, but your children also need to know where to seek assistance in case of emergencies.
You should tell them that if anything goes wrong, they can always turn to families for help. These include grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
If these people are not available immediately, children must be able to distinguish some authority figures willing to help them out.
A policeman, for example, is someone kids can count on.
Other people are the bodyguards, teachers, a trustworthy neighbor, or even a friend’s parents.
4. Establish rules concerning what to do and what not to do to keep your children safe.
When first introduced to the concept of strangers, the majority of kids have little idea on the relevant dos and don’ts.
To help them clear the confusion, it is best that parents set up a list of general rules.
What children must do include:
- Yell or cry out loud if someone tries to touch them without consent.
- Lock the door when being left alone at home, and do not open for anyone but their family members.
- Run to the paycheck for help if they get lost in a shopping mall.
- Travel with at least one more friend, especially if it is nighttime.
- Have a few coins and know by heart the number of their parents, so they can run into a phone booth and call for help.
- Stay away from deserted areas, where they are more likely to be targeted.
What children must not do include:
- Accept anything from strangers, even if it is a small candy. The oldest trick of all kidnappers is to use sweets to lure children. Warn your kids against receiving stuff from people they do not know.
- Get in the car with a stranger. Do not buy “Your parents asked me to give you a lift home” story. Tell your kids they have to firmly refuse if offered a ride like that.
- Stay too close to unknown people. Kids should always leave a space around themselves so they can easily move away if bad things happen.
You can make necessary adjustments to the list depending on your situation, but remember to stick to the basic safety rules.
5. Give out some hypothetical scenarios in which strangers are involved, so that your children have a clearer idea on how to react.
A role-play is the best way for kids to sketch out what they should and should not do in a specific circumstance.
You can start by asking them a few “What if” questions.
“What if you were walking home from school, and someone in a car asked you for directions?”
“What if you were home alone, and the mailman said you needed to open the door for him to deliver a package?”
“What if you were playing in a park, then an adult came over and asked you to lead him or her to the nearest public toilet?”
With each question, allow your kids a few minutes to think and present their solutions.
If you do not see fit, feel free to correct your child on how to react properly, and explain to them why.
Whatever the situation is, do not forget to emphasize the need for being vigilant to your kids.
6. Teach your children about strangers with care and caution, not with exaggeration.
It is extremely tempted to say “If you are not careful around a stranger, they will take you away from me! Forever”.
Or “If you open the door for a stranger, they may come into our house, steal everything, and then sell you to the traffickers!”
Ladies and gentlemen, it is possibly the worst to scare your children off like that.
Do not go to extremes when teaching children about strangers, or ask kids to avoid meeting strangers at all times.
Even the strictest parent must realize that sometimes, their babies will be around with a lot of strangers, like at a birthday party, a Halloween get-together or a school trip.
The right way to keep them safe is not through overdoing the whole “stranger danger” story.
Kids are more likely to be panicking and unable to handle a tricky solution if they receive frightening stories from parents all the time.
Instead, instruct your kids to remain calm and cool in all situations.
Strangers can be a threat, yes, but everything can be solved if kids are alert.
7. Make sure your children know any information related to their own homes and families.
When a kid leaves their own home, it is of utmost importance that they know the way back.
Once your child reaches the age when they start going out unsupervised, parents should teach them everything about personal identification.
Home address. Make sure your child knows where they live, including the home number, the street’s name, and the neighborhood.
Phone numbers. A child must learn by heart their parent’s phone numbers.
In case both parents are unavailable, children need to learn the number of a third party. It can be their grandparents, their relatives, or a trusted teacher.
8. Teach your children how to use the Internet safely.
With the advent of the Internet and other technical devices like smartphones and computers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for kids and parents to stay safe.
If your kids are allowed to use an Internet-connected gadget, you must teach them a few things to protect themselves from online dangers.
- Do not accept friend requests from people they do not know. A kid’s social network accounts should only include friends and relatives in the friend list.
- Do not update their whereabouts regularly, especially if they travel alone. Some people with bad intentions can make use of this information to target kids.
- Do not fill out any kind of online forms asking for personal data like home addresses or phone numbers. If it is a form from school, there must be parental supervision during the process.
The anonymous nature of the Internet makes it a fertile land for predators.
Asking your children to stay vigilant – even if they are online – makes them less prey to Internet-based crimes.
Giving your child lessons about strangers may be a challenging task, but it is a necessary step to ensure the well-being of your kids.