An inevitable part of parenting is teaching your child how to stay safe in different situations. Starting young will arm your children with the knowledge they need to stay safe and it will give you peace of mind to know they are prepared. While we can’t always be there to protect our children, we can educate them on how to recognize dangerous situations and take care of themselves.
In particular, it’s important to talk to your kids about strangers – how to interact with strangers safely and how to avoid strangers who are behaving suspiciously. As children, our social skills are in the process of developing, so the guidance of an adult is necessary to help inform safe behaviours. Therefore, make it a priority to teach your child how to safely interact with people they don’t know and what to do if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.
Let’s talk about “stranger danger”
Chances are that growing up you were warned about “stranger danger,” the concept that anyone you don’t know could be potentially so you better avoid them at all costs. While this undoubtedly came from a very understandable desire to keep children safe, it can also instil an unnecessary fear that all adults are dangerous, and by extension, that the world is a dangerous place to be.
To help your children stay alert and aware rather than frightened, we encourage you to try adapting your language so you present the information they need in a non-threatening way. We also recommended learning in detail about who they’re talking to. Besides having a conversation with them, you can learn quite a bit about them by simply using a background checker from Nuwber.
The following child safety tips will help your kids stay safe from strangers. Be sure to give your child clear examples of situations they may encounter with strangers. Then, take the opportunity to act out different responses.
Child safety tips for parents
Interacting with strangers isn’t black and white for children. Your child will likely encounter strangers on a daily basis, so “strangers are dangerous” is not a very helpful approach. There may also be times when your child may need the help of a stranger. Let’s look at some ways to talk to kids about strangers without frightening them unnecessarily.
1 – How to talk to strangers
The concept of who a stranger is may be confusing for kids, especially young children. A waitress at a restaurant you frequent often is technically a stranger but it’s also an adult your child interacts with regularly. Encourage your child to simply ask your permission before they strike up a conversation with an adult.
Rather than “Never talk to strangers.”
Try: “Ask mom or dad before talking to a grownup.”
2 – What to do if your child gets lost
If your child were to need the help of a stranger, such as if they were to get lost at a shopping mall, it’s important that your child is confident to ask a trusted adult for help. Familiarize your child with the types of grownups that can be trusted to help them, like employees with name tags or a security guard. This will help your child identify who they can go for assistance. Try playing a game with your child while you’re shopping – challenge them to find as many people with name tags as they can for practice.
Rather than: If you get lost in a store, find a trusted adult you can ask for help.
Try: If you get lost, find a person wearing a name tag and stay in the store
3 – If a stranger offers something to your child.
Being offered something like a cookie, toy, or other treat is understandably enticing to a small child. Instruct your child to ask permission before accepting anything from anyone (with appropriate exceptions like grandma and grandpa or a teacher as you see fit). Help your child practice refusing a treat from a stranger through role-playing games.
Rather than: Don’t take candy from a stranger!
Try: Don’t take anything from anyone except mom and dad, your grandparents, (and any other adults who care for your child you want to include).
Stranger safety tips for kids
1 – Teach your children basic identifying information and practice repeating it until they’ve learned it by heart. For young children, make sure they know their full name and your full name, not just “Mommy” or “Dad”. Once they’ve mastered that, teach them your cell phone number and your address.
2 – For younger kids, make sure your child knows that they are not to talk to or take anything from a stranger without asking you first. As your child grows older, help them identify adults you both know and trust who they can also rely on.
3 – Educate your child on how to identify a trustworthy adult in the event they get lost. Ensure they are familiar with the things they can look for, like the name tag of a shop employees or the fluorescent vest of a security guard, to help them find someone to ask for assistance.
3 – Emphasize that your child is never to get into someone’s car without your express permission. For older children, underscore that they should never approach a stranger’s car for any reason.
4 – As your kids grow older and become increasingly independent, teach them to use the buddy system with their siblings and friends. Make it clear that buddies don’t separate – where you go, your buddy goes and vice versa.
Educating your children about strangers and stranger safety is an important part of growing up. Starting from a young age, you can lay the foundation of knowledge that will help keep your child safe. Use games and role play to ensure your child understands the steps they can take to stay safe.
You can keep your kids safe by preparing them well in advance of any dangerous situation they could encounter. The world can be a dangerous place, but empowering your child with the knowledge they need to help protect themselves can go a long way in keeping them safe.