This is my follow up to 6 Ways to Promote Free-Range Kids in 2018. One of those 6 is teaching them about Stranger Danger for children. Preparing our children for some of the darkness this world has to offer is not a very fun subject but an important one.
It’s our job to prepare them to be upstanding, independent people. I’m not talking about scaring them with our parental anxieties so they never try anything new or fun but, there is a certain level of awareness they should possess. That level will grow with their age and experience as well. The boundaries or rules we have for our children are for their safety and can be crossed from the outside!
I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. Please read my full Disclosure for more information.
1. Teaching strategies for what to do if they need an adult and you the parent are not around. Who is the right kind of person to approach for help?
There are many scenarios where a child could be put into this situation. Getting separated from a parent or other adult while shopping or on a field trip. Playing unsupervised in the yard or walking to a friend’s house or park. If they or another child is hurt or in a boundary crossing situation where can they go to look for help?
–Emergency. Children should be made aware of our public service protectors and how to recognize them. A police officer and firefighters are good options in an emergency if they are available. We can also teach them how to dial 911 on a phone to ask for emergency help.
-Lost. I read somewhere once to share this little tidbit with your kiddo in case they get separated from you. Look for another mom with kiddos to ask for help. I know if a little lost kid came to me I would want to help them in a heartbeat. Following this plan, it’s always good to have your kiddo memorize your phone number, especially if they do not have a phone of their own. You could even write it on a bracelet for them to where in preparation for being in a scenario where separation could happen.
-Approached by a stranger when out in the neighborhood. Here is where growing the like-minded village comes in handy. Learn who your neighbors are and whom you may be most comfortable having your kids look to for help and support. Make your kids familiar with these wonderful people. Yes, not all are ready to play that role but if your child is allowed that freedom to be out on their own, you as the parent need to help make the connections to have as many safety options as possible.
2. Teaching kids how to respectfully and safely get out of an uncomfortable situation that does not coincide with their boundaries.
My mom always told me I could say anything to anyone if I said it respectfully. Kids are very smart. If you have the boundaries trained and ingrained, they will know when they are in an uncomfortable situation.
They should be taught they can say “no” if their boundaries are being crossed and it doesn’t matter by who! Sorry Grandma if she doesn’t want a kiss today, I’m not going to make her. Encourage them to know they can excuse themselves to home or seek out a trusted village member when they are uncomfortable or pushed outside of their boundaries.
It is also important to have a good open discussion relationship with your kiddos. We want them to feel comfortable sharing when a situation that is boundary crossing has occurred. This way you can help guide your child to prevent future uncomfortable situations.
Another idea I have read about, especially for older children is to have a code word. The child can text or call you with the word and you can call them home or go get them without the peer pressure of seeming uncool to leave a boundary crossing situation. The other part of this idea was to not pressure them to talk about it unless they are ready or want to. Just to trust that you have this relationship where they are following the boundaries and trusting you in return. I’m sure if you have that open discussion relationship details will be shared anyway.
3. Seeking out friends that fit. Who do they enjoy spending time with that have similar boundaries to their own?
We all want our children to seek out friendships, have healthy relationships, and safely enjoy the people whom they spend time with outside of the family. This starts when our children are young, and we have all control over who they spend time with.
As I discussed in my free-range post, I gravitate to like-minded parents with similar boundaries for their children. Encouraging, participating and modeling interests can help guide your kiddos as they grow. I was in Girl Scouts and loved it. My Mom became a leader because they needed more volunteers to keep it going. I am sure she is part of the reason I continued to love it all the way to high school. She was able to further guide and encourage mine and my friends’ interests. We did A LOT of outdoors and camping. Way more than most city-based Girl Scout troops normally do. It was amazing. I remember one of my best friends’ fathers also joined as a leader! He added a lot of camp knowledge as well.
Remember to try your hardest to listen to your kids.
Even when they are young and it does not always seem as pressing or important. They will remember and react. Them sharing details of their life needs to be important from the beginning to build the base of that relationship. Don’t forget keeping up the good open discussion relationship grows in importance as the kiddos get older. You want them to have the independence but still the comfort in coming to you for guidance as they build their own boundaries and choose their own friends.
4.Learning to notice when a situation could be unsafe or boundary crossing. Are they being aware of their environment?
Kids often love to get lost in the moment. Swept up into the fun of something and not notice when a situation becomes an unsafe one. For example, a 4-year-old stopping to look at a dead squirrel in the middle of the road and not thinking about cars that could be speeding over a hill towards them. We all teach them to look both ways before crossing the street as well as walking on the correct side following the flow of traffic. When they are younger they may need constant reminders of this boundary. As they get older it should be ingrained into the back of their minds.
Exactly why the boundaries grow with age and experience.
The darker side of this topic is when a child needs to be aware of an adult crossing into their boundaries. We all see the stories of people “sweet” talking kids into cars, or even just trying to snatch them up. We can teach about not going with strangers- even ones with cute puppies and candy!
Remind kids that with the freedom of unattended play or traveling comes the boundaries of not talking to or going with strangers.
The topic gets even scarier when the boundary crossing adult is a familiar one to your child. Teach them they can say “no” when they are uncomfortable no matter who they are saying it to. Again. You can say anything to anyone if you say it respectfully.
Modeling situational awareness as a parent is another way to teach this to our children.
It’s a true balance of trying new things and learning about the world while trusting intuition and staying in the boundaries.
If you do your best to cover all the steps in both my free range post and this stranger danger for children post the chances of #4 being an issue grow very small. This does not mean to skip this lesson! Just don’t let the anxiety of it overtake you and your child especially.
As bad as this world can seem sometimes it is doubly good. Now for one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That can go for good or bad dreams.
I truly hope you enjoyed my post on Stranger Danger for Children. It is a very loaded topic and I am no expert but as a parent, I have put so much thought into it I wanted to share my ideas with others.
Here are some good reads if you want more information on stranger danger for children.