It’s important to teach skills to children for handling potentially dangerous situations. One common parenting rule is telling your child never to talk to strangers. This might seem like a correct thing to teach, but you may not be equipping your child with enough information to handle some circumstances, and you might be instilling more fear than necessary.
What are some instances when your child might have to talk to a stranger? Teaching kids about “stranger danger” goes beyond cautioning never to speak to a stranger. It helps to teach kids that they don’t need to worry about strangers; they just need to know what to do.
Who is a Stranger?
First, define for your child who a “stranger” is – for example, someone who your child doesn’t know, and someone who can look like anyone. When teaching the concept of stranger danger, “strangers” often are portrayed as scary or villainous. However, it’s important to teach your child that even the most “normal” looking adult is still a stranger if your child does not know the person. If a person is a stranger, regardless of how he or she looks, all of the stranger safety rules apply.
Also important is teaching your child that not all strangers are bad. For example, if your child is ever in trouble and you are not around, he or she will likely have to ask a stranger for help. When you are out with your child, point out “safe strangers,” so that your child learns which strangers can be okay to trust.
Stranger Safety Rules: Have a Plan
Teaching your child how to handle potentially dangerous situations with strangers is the best way to keep your child safe.
Here are six basic stranger safety rules for children:
- Check with a trusted adult before standing close to or talking to a stranger.
- Before going anywhere with anyone, be it a stranger or someone you know, tell the adult in charge where you are going, who you will be with, and what you will be doing.
- Never give out personal information.
- No adult should ever ask you to keep something a secret. If something ever bothers you, you do not have to keep it a secret.
- No adult should ever ask you or any child for help. If a stranger asks you for help, find a trusted adult to help the stranger instead.
- No adult should never ask you to disobey your parents, for any reason.
Stanger Safety Skills to Practice
Plan to practice stranger safety skills with your child. Many children learn best by doing, so in addition to explaining the rules to your child, practice them as well.
Practicing these stranger safety skills with your child will give both of you a plan of action should the need arise:
- Memorize your phone number(s) and home address.
- Practice saying “no, thank you,” firmly, and then getting away from the situation.
- Role-play “what if” questions. For example, act out with your child what he or she should do or say if approached while alone in the park, or if a person drives up and asks for directions, or if you and your child become separated at the grocery store or another locale.