What and When You Should Teach Your Children About “Stranger Danger”
“Stranger danger” is a conversation you will have with your children when teaching them about the dangers of speaking with people they don’t know may impose on them. But, this doesn’t necessarily need to be a fear-based conversation.
Today we’ll discuss ways in which you can teach your children about “stranger danger” without instilling them with fear.
When Should You Have the Conversation?
Whenever it feels right, but, personally, we believe it’s an important conversation to have as soon as your child can understand what a stranger is. You may also want to use an opportunity you may come across. Say for example when you are all out as a family and someone comes over and asks you to take a photo. Use this as a time to discuss speaking with strangers.
Intuition-Based Concern With People
In general, you want to teach your kid not to be fearful of all people, but cautious with strangers and to identify feelings of discomfort with people they know as well. Teaching your children that strangers are bad and the people we know are good, will only confuse them, and we’ll tell you why.
Children are, unfortunately, more likely to be hurt by neighbors, friends, or family than they are by strangers, and should your child encounter a discomforting experience with someone they know, you will want them to acknowledge it even though this person isn’t a stranger.
Have open conversations with your children about embracing their intuition and if something “doesn’t feel right” to come to you straight away. The more open and friendly you are with them, the more likely they are to open up to you. Create a safe space for your children.
Teach Your Children How to Think for Themselves
Nothing can be more powerful than reminding your kids about the power they hold within themselves. Teach them that it is okay to walk away without explaining themselves, it’s ok to walk away from an uncomfortable situation without knowing “why”, and that it is always okay to ask for help.
You could discuss potential situations in which a stranger may approach your child and how your child could respond or not respond. Discuss their options with them and ask them to pitch in ideas on how to handle certain situations.
But above all, let your children know that their safety is most important, and they have every right to walk or run away from a situation they feel unsafe in. Give them tips on what to do, who to call, and where to go in the incident of “stranger danger”. Empower them!
Online and Offline Security
Technology and social media are an inevitable part of your child’s upbringing. And technology can be a great thing if your child is informed of the dangers and knows how to navigate using this tool. The most important thing they must learn, online and offline, is to never give out sensitive information such as addresses, phone numbers, or date of birth.
Private information should always be kept private, and to further delve on our previous point if your child feels empowered, they are less likely to give in to pressure because they know where they stand.
Help Them to Identify Suspicious Interactions
Run through typical scenarios that will be easy to understand and identify if they happen. Some examples are:
- A stranger offers to purchase candy or ice cream for your child
- A stranger is following your child
- A stranger tells your children that mommy or daddy asked them to pick them up from school
- A stranger asks your child to help them find their puppy
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported that young children are less likely to be targeted by strangers than teenagers are. A surprising find that leads us to believe this is a conversation we must have with our children from very early on and well into their teens.
Check-in with older children as they grow up and begin to venture out on their own. Remind them of “stranger danger” and how you are always there to listen and help when they need it.
The main takeaways from this article are: “stranger danger” isn’t limited to “strangers”, allow children the space to speak about danger they may feel with people they know, empower your children to say no and remove themselves from uncomfortable situations, discuss suspicious activity, and continue having the conversation with kids in their teens.