My experiences in teaching to children stranger safety workshops based upon my book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers, have confirmed that many children don’t understand the concept of strangers. In my workshops, we do role playing scenarios that involve potentially threatening situations that a child might face when confronted with a stranger who may intend harm. Far too many children participating in my workshops fail that role playing test. Far too many of them would have gone off with the stranger or ended up in a compromising and potentially harmful circumstance.
The concept of stranger is difficult for children to understand. The first chapter of my book explains, in a reassuring way, the concept of strangers and provides a system for helping children to determine whom they should and should not trust. The strategies provided in the book help to empower children to take a pro-active role in staying safe.
Because the concept of strangers is a difficult one for children to comprehend, education is the key. My book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers is an excellent educational resource for children and parents. It is important also that parents discuss with their children stranger safety strategies that will instill confidence and guide them to make sound decisions. When having such a discussion, however, parents should be careful not to increase any fear or anxiety by reassuring them, as my book does, that most people are good and not looking to cause them harm. Focus instead on teaching them how to be safe around any strangers.
Parents should teach children that strangers are people they don’t know. Therefore they need to be cautious around them. Parents should explain to children that even people they only kind of know should be considered strangers and, as such, should be cautious around them. Parents should help their children understand who their safe adults are.
Parents should teach children that strangers can look like anyone. How a stranger looks doesn’t determine whether or not the stranger is someone who should be trusted. Parents should teach their children to keep a safe distance from strangers who approach them or try to talk to them. Children should be told to run away from a stranger if that stranger bothers them or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way. Teach them, instead, to seek out their safe adult. Teach them to tell their safe adult any time anything remotely scary or threatening happens to them.
Parents should ensure that their children know their full name, age, address, and telephone number. Children should be instructed never to give out personal information to any stranger. Parents need to teach their children never to accept rides with a stranger. Children need to be taught to yell and fight back if ever grabbed by a stranger. My book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers provides, in a very kid-friendly way, self-defense and escape strategies to children. Parents should practice those strategies with their children.
Parents should also instruct their children always to use the buddy system as they are less of a target from a potential predator if they are not alone. Teach children that, whenever possible, they should walk in groups as there is better safety in numbers.
Parents also need to set home safety rules, as well. Parents should teach their children never to let strangers into the house if they are home or alone and never to let strangers even know they are home alone.
Educating and empowering children with the detailed strategies presented in my book is advisable. In addition, open communication between parents and children is of paramount importance. Parents should instruct their children to report immediately any suspicious activity and all interactions with strangers that made them feel scared or uncomfortable. Teaching children what to do when confronted by a stranger can be a lifesaver.
Picture credit: Laura Morariu