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How to Teach Your Child About Strangers

on 18/07/2013 1173

“Don’t talk to strangers!” or “Stranger Danger!” have probably been the mantra of many parents for generations.

As parents, there is nothing we fear more than not knowing where or what happened to our child and dread the mere thought of losing them. But as parents, we also want our children to explore the world on their own, discover new things, make their own mistakes and make new friends.

The rule of not allowing our children to talk all strangers may not be very practical especially when they are at an age where they should be making friendships and getting to know the people and things around them.

To most children, they think that dangerous strangers have scary and menacing looks, pretty much like the villains they see on cartoon shows. But as parents we know that many times this have been proven wrong because known kidnappers and pedophiles are normal-looking people that you won’t feel threatened by if you were to pass them on the street.

It can be tricky to introduce the concept of strangers to your child without contradicting yourself because you would want your child to be safe but you would also want him to be able to go to trusted strangers for help.

What is a stranger?

Make it clear - Strangers are essentially people that your child doesn’t know, but that doesn’t mean every stranger is dangerous and out to kidnap him. Before establishing your version of a stranger, ask your child what he or she thinks a stranger is or who your child feels or thinks is a stranger?

This way you can tailor what you want to say at his level and makes it easier to introduce the concept of stranger. Do not tell him that every stranger is dangerous and bad because otherwise if your child ever needs help from someone else, he wouldn’t be able to seek the help since you have instill the negative concept in him.

Make it clear that strangers are simply people he doesn’t know or people that you have not introduced them to him.

Safe Strangers vs. Dangerous Strangers – Your child needs to have a clear idea on which stranger is considered safe and which is not. It’s dangerous for your child to think that all scary-looking strangers are dangerous and pretty strangers are safe.

Making him understand that he won’t be able to tell if a stranger is kind or bad just from the looks is a better way to teach your child to be wary of strangers. Emphasize on the possible actions of an ill-intent stranger like:

  • Offering him candy or chocolate
  • Asking him to accompany the stranger to the shop
  • Telling him that the stranger was asked by you to take him home from school
  • Asking him for directions

It is also important to make it clear that just because a stranger calls your child by his or her first name, it doesn’t mean he or she is a safe stranger because a stranger might have overheard you calling your child. Emphasize also on how one gender is not always safer than the other because dangerous strangers can be of both sexes.

What should your child do?

Set the boundaries – Your child needs to know that he can still talk to strangers when say, a friendly person strolling in the park walks by and says hello. But your child also needs to know that it’s okay for him to talk back to this kind of strangers if you’re close by and that he can see you from where he is standing or playing.

If ever your child is not near you and a stranger talks to him, let your child know that it’s okay to tell the stranger that he’s not supposed to talk to the stranger. If the stranger presses on, tell your child to run and look for you or find someone he can trust like a storekeeper, a security guard or any familiar face he can recognize and stay with the trusted adult until you arrive.

No, Go, Yell, Tell – These are the four words you can always repeat whenever you talk about strangers to your child.

When he feels that a stranger is a dangerous one, he should always say no and run away from the stranger while yelling so he can attract others’ attention. A stranger with bad intention does not want to risk recognition by the public so by having your child scream as loud as possible can drive the stranger away. Have your son tell a trusted adult what has happened so the adult can assist your child by keeping him safe.

What else you can do as parents?

Role Play – You can play the role-play game with your child from time to time to ensure the concept of strangers is clear and understood.

What Ifs – Occasionally ask “What if…” questions to your child especially when he least expects it to gauge how much your child understand about strangers.

Show Them Safe Places – While walking in the park or driving to your favorite restaurant, always point out safe places your child can go to should he needs assistance from an adult.

Trust Their Instinct – Always tell your child that above all, if anything or anyone makes them feel scared or uncomfortable even when he doesn’t know why, he should always run away from the situation or person.

Although you shouldn’t overdo it, teaching your children about strangers should be an ongoing educational process because you want to make sure that they really understand the concept.