A ‘stranger’ is generally defined as someone whom your child does not know. As Colleen mentioned in her recent post on “Stranger Danger” over at Keeping Her Cool (Click HERE), we want to protect children from society’s unsavory elements, but we also don’t want them to be afraid to engage with new people. It’s a tough balance.
Talking with kids about strangers, even at a very young age, helps them to understand who is friend and who is foe. For example, police officers are strangers, but they are also our friends. Open and forthright communication can help dispel some of the myths that ensnare little ones. For example, children are often drawn to physically attractive, ‘friendly-looking’ adults. It’s up to you to help kids to see that pretty jewelry and a big smile doesn’t necessarily equal ‘friend.’ By the same token, grisly and gruff doesn’t always mean predator.
One of the best ways to help children learn to be safe around strangers is to role-play situations with them so that they get used to using a loud voice to call for help. Help them to take stock of their surroundings when in a new place. Are there security guards? Is there an information booth? Children often have well-developed instincts for sniffing out shady characters. Encourage them to listen to their gut. If something feels fishy, better to act on that even if it ends up being a false alarm.
The following websites are great resources for helping you to teach your kids about strangers without frightening them or shutting them down around new acquaintances. Check them out for more ideas:
The National Crime Prevention Council demonstrates how to teach kids about strangers, and also provides valuable information on internet safety.
The Coalition For Children has resources you can use with your children including videos and a ‘Stranger Rules’ checklist.
How have you tried to teach your kids about strangers? What about safety in public and on the internet?