Today’s blog post is quite different. I usually blog about toys and having fun with my son. I embrace positivity, and I enjoy looking on the bright side of life much more than thinking about the bad things and bringing negativity to the table. Part of being a parent, however, is that we have to be responsible; and also think about how we can teach our children about danger and risk in our world. Without scaring them!
It’s pretty difficult not to be concerned when we hear terrifying reports in the media about the ever growing trade in child trafficking. But just how justified are these fears and how to teach your child about stranger danger? In my own personal view, I think “better safe than sorry” is a good tactic and that is why I’d like to share with you my step by step guide to teach your kids to protect themselves.
But before I do, let’s just take a look at the facts.
What are the Facts?
According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Centre Missing Person’s File, there are 32,121 active files for persons under the age of 18 years, as of December 31st, 2017.
The good news is that of the 80,000 plus cases of reported missing children each year, 99.8% are returned home safely. The majority of these have simply not communicated their whereabouts clearly to their families or some other misunderstanding has taken place. Some are runaways and some have been taken by family members. Only a very small number are actually abducted by strangers.
Children who are stereotypically kidnapped by strangers only account for around 100 cases per year. Half of these children do come home. These 100 cases account for less than 1% of all children who are reported missing.
Hopefully, those figures will ease your mind a little. But I’d still rather educate my own children about stranger danger anyway.
How To Teach Your Child About Stranger Danger
As adults, we know that strangers may not be quite what they seem. But children have no way of telling if an adult presents a danger to them.
We don’t want to make our children scared of everyone, but at the same time, we need to teach them how to keep themselves safe.
Let’s take a look at four concepts and tactics that you can use to teach your child about stranger danger, but without scaring them. The concepts presented below are all actionable, meaning that you can start implementing them right away! Please bear in mind, though, that you should not focus on just one of them, but rather combine all of them as they all represent a different approach to diverse facets of the issue.
Some children are naturally gregarious and will openly engage with people they have never met before – while, on the other hand, the larger majority of children naturally shun people they don’t know. Watch your child and see how they react to strangers, it can help you know the best way to teach them about stranger danger.
The most common ways children are enticed to going with a stranger are by being offered candy, being asked to help find a lost animal or being asked to provide directions. They may also be offered a ride home or be told a family member is sick or has been involved in an accident and similar stories.
Teach your child that they must never accept anything from a stranger, or get into a stranger’s car for any reason, without first checking with you, as this can help keep them safe. Tell them that some strangers may want to hurt them and they should shout “NO!” loudly if a stranger stops in a vehicle and offers them anything or asks them to go with them. Teach them that in such a scenario they should try to address ONE other adult nearby by pointing at that person, and then tell them: „Sir/Ma’am, please help me. I don’t know this person!“
Teach them that if they are grabbed by a stranger, they must scream as loudly as they can, bite, kick, scratch and hit. Tell them where the most vulnerable areas are on the body (but also tell them that it is not okay to randomly „attack“ people, schoolmates etc. in these areas).
By role playing different scenarios with your child, it can help them to recognize the danger and know how to react.
If the role playing thing is a little full on for you, you can achieve the same result by using puppets. It’s really easy to make simple puppets from wooden spoons and scraps of fabric.
You can have some craft fun, teach your kids about stranger danger as well as other safety concepts such as the buddy system. The buddy system is about never playing or going anywhere alone, when you are vulnerable to strangers.
Songs and Rhymes
It could be important for your child to know their address and telephone number in case they ever get lost. By using a well-known tune, you can make up a song that teaches them this information. Or if they like rhymes, you can try that method. Remember to practice the song or rhyme regularly to keep it in their mind.
When you’re out at the store or at a tourist attraction, point out the people your child could approach for help if they get lost.
It’s as well to remember that far more children are abducted or harmed by people they know than by strangers. To help protect your children from both, you can use a safe word or safe sentence.
If a family acquaintance or relative arrives at the school gates and tells your child they have come to collect them because you’re late, etc. they can ask that person for the “safe word.” If they cannot give your child the safe word, let them know they must not go with that person, but immediately report them to a teacher or principal of the school. Let your child know they should never get into a car with a stranger.
If a stranger, family acquaintance or relative makes inappropriate conversation or tries to touch your child in a “private” place, let your child know that they should come to you and say the safe word. You will immediately know that your child has experienced a problem. It can also work for bullying. Remember that children don’t always have the words to explain what has happened to them. By using a safe word, they can let you know there is a problem. If they are unable to explain the problem further in words, you can ask them to draw it with stick man drawing.
Make sure that the safe words or sentences are easy for your child to remember, but would not be known to anyone else. Have one safe word that only the two of you know. Don’t ever give it to anyone else. It is just for you and your child alone. Have a second safe word that you would give to someone if they needed to collect your child.
Once you have given away this second safe word to another person, make sure to practice a new one with your child (just like you’re supposed to update your internet passwords regularly): The old one is „burnt“ now and no longer „safe“!
The world can seem like a scary place at times. But by teaching your children some basic safety skills, in a way that best suits their personality, you can help to protect them from some of the dangers.
If you have anything to add to this story, please feel free to comment below. What is your approach to teaching your kid about stranger danger? What do you think about the tips covered in this blog post? What would you like to see added? This topic is REALLY important to me, so please share your thoughts. I am always eager to learn!
Here’s to keeping our kids safe!
Thanks for reading
P.S.: Did you ever ask yourself how to put an end to all those exhausting power struggles that can stand between our kids and us as moms or dads? If so, then make sure to read my FULL REVIEW of “Positive Parenting Solutions” HERE. You won’t regret it! I promise!!!
This is a easy, not nerve-wrecking approach to the stranger danger talk. I know a lot of new moms and moms to be who fret and get really anxious about their kids starting preschool or kindergarten and how they will ensure their child’s safety when they are not there to keep them safe. I especially like the idea of analyzing what type of child yours is before you choose how to approach the “talk”. Role playing is great too for kids who are more hands on!
sorry for my late response to your comment. Hey, thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to write a comment. I really appreciate that!
I am super glad to read that you like the idea behind this post and that you agree with the concepts I covered. I’m super happy I could provide some valuable information to you.
If you like, please feel free to share this post with other moms in your network. Maybe they can benefit and join the discussion as well 🙂
All the best to you and your loved ones,
This is a great post and an essential subject to cover. I shudder when I think that my children might be in some danger, but the sad truth is, as you have said, the threat might be closer than we know. My twins love to greet everyone they meet; they are not shy at all. Only the other day, I was thinking how I should approach this with them, without spoiling their fun. A difficult one for sure!
Thank you for your excellent advice on safe words and giving us, the parents the inspiration and confidence to encourage our children to stay safe.
Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to respond with a comment. I can totally relate to what you explained. When Benni was younger he would also greet and smile at every person we met. This has changed, though, when he grew older and developed a better feeling for who he can trust and who is a foreigner to him. That, of course, certainly won’t make him invulnerable to stranger danger. Not even close!
In the situation you explained above, I think it would be important not to stop your kids from being kind. I think it is pretty cool to raise positive, open-minded and kind kids with good manners! A kid smiling and saying hi to a foreign person can change that person’s day completely. That certainly happened to me in the past! I remember how Benni smiled at that one woman at the register in a supermarket one day and you could literally see how that brightened that person’s day.
It would be so sad if we would take that “power” away from our kids, just because we as parents are scared. On the other hand, there is a good reason for being scared. If your kids are that open-minded, maybe it’s worth talking to them and discussing “limits” with them: Maybe it is okay to say “Hi” and smile, but back off when the person who’s being greeted approaches them and tries to make further contact. Another limit could be when a foreigner approaches and wants to give them something, like sweets or so. “Don’t accept anything from strangers” – And then practice these rules through role play!?
Just an idea 🙂
All the best to you and your loved ones!
I freaking love the shark pic at the top. So epic, fits the situation perfectly lol. I think the role playing is hugely important. I do sales, and role playing by myself has made all the difference. Really good read. Thank you.
thanks for reading my article. I’m so glad to hear you liked it. Cool that you enjoyed my image selection 🙂 It was kind of hard to come up with a good illustration, but as you said: This one fits the situation quite good! (Unfortunately!).
Thank you for pointing out the parallel to your training as a salesman in terms of role-playing. It’s really a strong method to teach people things related to interaction with others, and it works across (almost) all ages!
All the best to you and your family, AJ!
Oh wow this is a really great post for parents. My son is only 15 months old and hasn’t begun talking yet. I observe him with strangers, he seems to like to wave “hello” to everyone who walks by us when we are going for a stroll in the park, however when it comes to letting people hold him, well he is only comfortable with family members and people who he knows. I want him to feel safe even though he doesn’t have the words to ask me. For example, I have an uncle who comes over once in a while. When he does,my son gets shy and hides behind me. I noticed when my uncle holds my son, he tickles him in a way that makes my son squirm uncomfortably so I have told him before not to do that. So now my uncle comes over and wants to hold my son, I told him “No, sorry you can’t. My son yells when you hold him and to me that means, “no, don’t touch me” he is not a toy, he is a person and as his mother I am going to make sure no one disrespects to invades his space” and of course my uncle is talking smack and acting like he has the authority to override my decision but I shut that down real quick. I told him unless he wants me to get really ugly he really best just shut his mouth. Its amazing how protective we get over our kids huh?
Hey I have another piece of advice. Its a good idea also to teach our kids that if ever they get lost, or ever they find themselves separated from you to look for another *MOM with KIDS* ( a woman with kids, someone who is obviously a parent with their children ) and go up to that person and tell them you are lost and afraid and you need help finding your mom or dad. That is the BEST person to go to for help if you don’t see a police man. I think its kind of obvious and easy to spot a mom with kids in public sometimes. Just my two cents. Thanks so much for this!!!
thank you so much for this comment! I LOVE how you deal with this “tickling”-situation with your uncle. I have certainly found myself in a similar situation and I found it really hard to tell that other person to stop. But at the end of the day, we as Moms and Dads have all the right in the world (and it is our duty) to protect our little ones from “threats” and influences that they cannot defend themselves against! As I said: I found myself in a similar situation and I promised myself that next time I will step up for my son. To me, he is more important than ANYONE else in the world and therefore I will defend him no matter what!
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here! Love that last piece of advice by the way!!!