Luckily for us as parents, attacks on our children from strangers is rare but that doesn’t stop it from being our worst nightmare.
Children need to know that not everyone is ‘nice’ even if they appear to be and they need to be taught the dangers without scaring them. This is where learning about Stranger Danger comes in and this is what we will be taking a look at today.
What is Stranger Danger?
Stranger Danger is used to describe the rules and safety tips that should be followed by children in order for them to stay safe around adults that they do not know. One popular example that everyone knows is, “Don’t accept sweets from strangers.”
When Should You Teach Your Child About Stranger Danger?
There is no real rule as to when Stranger Danger should be taught to children as they all learn and pick things up better at different ages. Even a child of 3 years old may be able to grasp the idea of Stranger Danger and understand what a stranger is and why they shouldn’t trust them.
Parents are often worried about discussing this with their child too soon but the truth is, they are seeing and hearing much worse in the media so as long as it is done rationally, there shouldn’t be any worry of frightening the child.
Teaching Your Children About Stranger Danger
Basic Stranger Danger rules include:
- Not to accept gifts or sweets from a stranger
- Never get in a car with a stranger
- Never go anywhere with a stranger
- Never go off on your own without telling your parents or a trusted adult
- Encourage your child to YELL, KICK, SCREAM, LIE or RUN AWAY, if they feel that they are in danger
- Give your child a code word or sign that only you and your child (and another parent/carer) know. They can use it when they feel they are in danger but don’t want other people to know
When you start to teach your child about Stranger Danger they should become aware of what is, and is not appropriate behavior. They should know that they are to tell you if anything has happened rather than trying to keep it a secret and that no matter what they say, they will not get in trouble for what has happened. As a parent, it is also your responsibility to be mindful about the types of people that are allowed into the home.
Who Are Safe People and What Are Safe Places?
As you know, not every stranger is a bad person and means harm. As an example, if you have a fire at home your child would need to understand that the firefighters are there to help them and can be trusted. Otherwise your child might avoid them which could be disastrous.
They need to know how to keep themselves safe. For example:
- Knowing who they can trust if they need help – such as a uniformed police officer or a teacher
- Having the confidence to trust their instincts if they have a bad feeling about a place or person
- Being aware of their surroundings
- Learning to be assertive, and
- Knowing that they should tell a trusted adult if they have been approached by a stranger.
Safe people could be police officers, traffic wardens, shopkeepers, check-out assistants, paramedics and firemen. If possible your child should give their name and their parents phone number.
Safe places could be banks, post offices, libraries, medical centres, shops, supermarkets and leisure centres. If your child can’t see a safer stranger outside they should look for a safer building to go into to ask for help from the people who work there.
Going Beyond Stranger Danger
There is more to Stranger Danger than simply telling your child that they shouldn’t accept sweets from strangers. I see young children every day that have the latest phones and technology and they carry a lot more pocket money around than we ever did at those ages. These things also make them an easy target for street thefts or muggings. If a child is going out into the world with a new mobile phone for example, they need to know how to protect themselves and their property from other people.
The threat posed on the internet, or even by other children, is almost certainly far greater than that posed by the traditional bogeyman in a dirty raincoat. Indeed, the fact remains that children may be at greater danger from people they know than they are from the stranger of our nightmares.
If your child becomes lost, teach them to:
- STOP – stand still and look around if they are lost, not to run around trying to find you. It is better that you go to them by retracing your steps.
- If they get lost in the street, DO NOT approach anyone in the street, but instead go to the nearest shop and ask for help.
- Older children may carry a mobile phone with them – they should call you immediately and stay put.