At some point, every parent realizes that they have to have a talk with their child about stranger danger. They may be at the park with their child and see them walk up to a stranger and start petting their dog or wander over to a family and ask for a snack. Every circumstance may be unique to the parent and child, but the situations all have something in common. They open our eyes to the reality that our children are incredibly trusting and that as parents it's our duty to teach them about stranger danger since not everyone may have their best interests at heart.
Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Stranger Danger
These tips for talking about stranger danger are helpful when you talk to your child about stranger danger. We recommend that you repeat your stranger danger discussion often. It's prudent for parents to revisit this topic so that children know that it's important, and discussion breeds clarity.
1. Define "STRANGER"
The first thing you need to do is make sure that your child actually knows what a stranger is (someone they don't know). Children also need to know that there is such a thing as a "safe" stranger. A safe stranger is someone that you'd ask for help if you needed it. These people are usually identified by their uniform and include police officers, firemen, doctors, etc. Other "safe" strangers are people you recognize from the community but don't know, like friends' parents. So, you might recognize Susan from school with her parents and ask them for help if you need it, even if you don't necessarily have a close relationship with Susan's parents.
2. Make a DO NOT List
Set a very clear DO NOT list for younger children. They need clear boundaries, including:
- DO NOT open the front door without a parent present.
- DO NOT go anywhere with a stranger (even if they have a stuffed animal or promise you candy).
- If a stranger asks you for help (like for directions) DO NOT stick around. Run away. Adults do not need help from children.
- DO NOT wander away from your family or group when you are in public places.
- DO NOT answer the phone when parents are not home.
3. Role Play
Role play what your child should do in stranger danger situations. Go over "what if" scenarios. For example, "What if you are at the park and someone asks you if you want to walk their dog?" Go over what they should do if a stranger should try to approach them. The National Crime Prevention Council recommends that parents teach children the phrase, "No, Go, Yell, Tell." This means that children should yell "NO" if approached by a stranger, GO run away, YELL for help and then TELL an adult what happened right away.
Remember that the best way to keep your child safe is to know where they are at all times.