How to Talk to Children About Stranger Safety
While many parents focus on teaching their children the importance of internet safety and not offline safety, the fact remains that according to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 800,000 missing children are reported each year. On average that means that a missing child is reported 2,185 times each day. Many parents are uncertain about teaching their children about stranger danger. They do not want to alarm them unnecessarily, but they also want to make sure their kids are safe. Ready to talk to your child about safety tips for dealing with strangers? Here are some ideas to help you get started.
1. Skip the Details – Rather than scare their children or cause nightmares, parents often avoid the topic altogether. Children do not need to know the details of kidnapping in order to learn important safety tips. It’s okay to have the talk without getting into the specifics of what happens.
2. The "Must Be Able to See You" Rule – Pre-schoolers are unable to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Their point of view reigns supreme! For this reason, remind children often that they need to stay where they can see you. Asking them to stay where you can see them is futile because they do not know what you can see. Make sure they understand that this applies for when they’re with any caregiver and not just their parents.
3. Avoid Using "Never" – Telling children to never talk to strangers is too limiting and may actually put them in danger. Be sure to give specific situations when they should not talk to people they do not know as well as instances in which it may be okay.
4. Always Check In – Once kids are older and spending time at friends’ houses for play dates, situations may arise in which your kids are asked to leave one setting to go to another. Children need to know that they need to check in with mom or dad before going anywhere – even with friends.
5. Don’t Forget Food and Drinks – While it is important to talk to children about not going anywhere with strangers, it is also critical to discuss what to do if a child is offered food or drink from someone they do not know. Our standing rule is that unless otherwise told, the kids must check with us before eating or drinking anything given to them by someone they don’t know.
6. Go Over Exceptions – There are always exceptions to any rule including going somewhere with an authority figure in an emergency, excepting a snack from a mom they just met – but that you know – while on a playdate, etc. Use specific scenarios to make exceptions to rules clear.
7. Go Over What Kids Should Do – Children need to know not only that they should not talk to or go anywhere with strangers, but also what strangers they should approach should they find themselves lost or hurt. Again, this is the time to delve into specifics with your kids. They also need to know what to do should a stranger try to take them somewhere against their will, follow them, or make them feel uncomfortable. Remind your children that in this case, it’s okay to say “No!” to an adult and that they should yell loudly, make a scene, and run far away from the stranger.
Sometimes the best tips for talking to our children about frightening topics come from each other. What advice do you have for talking to children about staying safe?
Don't miss the newest season of America's Most Wanted. Premiering on Lifetime Friday, December 2 at 9 pm/8c. Watch a preview.