“Don’t talk to strangers” used to be the cure all to protect your child, but there are two sides to this. If you child wants to make friends or is lost…they need to talk to a stranger.
Instead of creating an encompassing rule of “Don’t talk to strangers”. Teach your children to learn who is safe. Children need to be taught to be on guard for manipulative or deceptive adults, who they can trust and how to be safe.
Instead of concentrating on specific examples like “Don’t take candy from a stranger” or “Don’t get into a stranger’s car”, focus on principles that a child can use in lots of situations. Such as teach your child that they shouldn’t accept any type of gift from someone they don’t know, and they shouldn’t accept any ride from them either.
Here are a few things to teach your child in order to be safe:
1. There is safety in numbers. You can’t always be with you child, but you can make sure that your child is with another trusted adult. Encourage your child to play with others. The more people around your child that they know, the better.
2. Don’t teach your children to be scared of all strangers. Mothers with children can be safe. Let your child know that a mother with children can be a safe option to go to; not a mother that approaches you. Uniformed officers, fireman, teachers, principals or someone with a “name tag” (store clerk or security officer) are also “safe strangers” that your child can and should approach. By teaching them this you are also installing confidence and empowering them to protect themselves. Also teach them to be cautious even when talking to good strangers.
3. Help your children develop their intuition. Since you as a parent cannot be with your child in every situation, teach your child to develop and trust their own feelings. Let your child know that if a stranger (or anyone) makes them feel uncomfortable, then they need to get out of the situation as quickly as possible without explaining or justifying their feelings at all.
4. Have you child memorize your phone number. If they are real young and cannot memorize your phone number yet, you could place a card in their pocket with important information. This way, when they do find a “safe stranger”, this safe stranger can help reach you easier.
5. Point out safe places. Teach your child what are safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take and safe places to go if they get lost or into trouble.
You don’t want your child to feel like the world is a dangerous and scary place without you by their side, but teaching them a few basic principles can give both you and your child a peace of mind.
Remember that awareness and education are key to instilling confidence within your child. This is important life lesson for both children and adults.