Stranger Danger for Children-4 Ideas to Explain and Prepare.
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 our kids to be upstanding, independent people.
We don’t want to scare them with our parental anxieties so much they never try anything new or fun. However, there is a certain level of awareness they should possess. That level of awareness will grow with their age and experience.
The boundaries or rules we have for our children are for their safety. Our kids crossing boundaries are not the only thing we have to worry about.? Those boundaries can be crossed from the outside! Read on for 4 core ideas to explain and prepare kids for stranger danger.?
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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 a situation when they need to ask a stranger for help. 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 a child is hurt or in a boundary-crossing situation where can they go to look for help?
Children should be made aware of our public service protectors and how to recognize them. If they are available, a police officer or firefighter is a good option in an emergency. We can also teach kiddos how to dial 911 on a phone to ask for emergency help.
(A lot of parents these days are relying on devices like these to keep track of their kids and give them a constant line of communication with them. Not sure we will have any in my house for a while yet. Check out the link if you are interested. The watch has a lot of features of a phone with GPS and Emergency Calling.)
I read this next little tidbit somewhere. If your kiddo gets separated from you, train them with the idea to 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 wear in preparation for being in a scenario where separation could happen.
(Here are some cute ID bracelets the kids could wear if you are going somewhere and worried about getting separated. They are waterproof. They have space to write the name and phone number and it’s not big enough that a stranger can read it and use it to persuade your kid.)
-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.
I am talking about a 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 with whom they spend time 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 as a parent 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 pressing or important. They will remember and react. Kids sharing details of their life needs to be important from the beginning so that you build the base of that relationship. Don’t forget, keeping up a 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 him.
We 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. You need them close to you when they are younger so they can learn.
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 kids 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 Stranger Danger to our children.
It’s a true balance of trying new things and learning about the world while trusting intuition and staying within 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, there is an overwhelming amount of good out there. The ideas I talk about here today are to help you and your kiddos truly experience the world. They are ideas to train them how to be independent and safe as they adventure outside of our protective bubble.
I truly hope you enjoyed my post on Stranger Danger for Children. It is a very loaded topic. 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.
This a great and uncomfortable stuff to think about. I am a new mom, and I hate that there are some things I won’t be able to protect my son from. But there are some really good ideas here on how to have those hard conversations.
Great information! I like the idea of a code word. I have always told my children that when they go outside, they need to always stay with their buddy. I always say “okay, remember the buddy system” where they just reply, “okay mommy”. They do not understand the world as we do, the dark side of it, that is, so I appreciated reading this to help aid in further discussion of what to do if anything should ever happen. Better to be proactive rather than reactive.
Thank you for these tips on Stranger danger. I don’t have any children but I am a nanny and often feel lost on how to educate children on how to stay safe around strangers. Very helpful.
Thanks for this educative post on stranger danger. I have learnt even more ideas about stranger danger. I like the part that kids need to memorize their parents’ number in case of danger. I taught my kids when they are out to play alone and a stranger approaches them or scare them in anyway, they should scream for attention from passerby or call the sos number on their smart watch immediately to alert us of danger.
This is a great article! It can be hard to find the right balance between encouraging independence in our children and keeping them safe. I read a really interesting article about how we massively overestimate the likelihood of our children being abducted or harmed by a stranger because of high profile cases of this that we see in the media – do you think this is true? Are modern parents more afraid than our own parents were? I totally agree with you about boundary setting too – we need to let kids be in control of their own bodies from early on and know that they can say ?no?!
Yes, I do agree with that article. I think our parents and their parents even more so were way less scared. I still think there are dangers out there though. The scary part is that it is more likely to not be a stranger doing the harming. It’s a hard balance to keep them safe and giving them the freedoms to learn to keep themselves safe.
Thank you so much for this informative article. The “lost child” tip with training them to look for other moms with kiddos is a great idea. As you mentioned, every mom would help a lost child in a heartbeat. Also, that way one can be sure that the child does not fall into the hands of a preying individual.
A very clever trick, indeed. Thanks a million. Writing the phone number on a bracelet sounds good too. I actually bought our daughter a heart-shaped medallion; we engraved our numbers inside. I know it brings up the thought of a doggy tag, lol, but it really is a beautiful centerpiece and she loves wearing it on her necklace.
Thank you for sharing all these wonderful posts with us.
Until next time.
I like the necklace idea! However, you can subtly give the child your some help in contacting you if you are separated is a great idea!