Telling your children to “never talk to strangers” is only one step in keeping our children safe from sexual predators and child abductors.
As children, how many times were we told to “never talk to strangers”? And how many times have we given our own children the same message? We’ve all heard the horror stories and because of them we’re anxious to street-proof our children. But today, many experts warn that a pat “never talk to strangers” isn’t realistic. Instead, it’s important to make children aware how to interact with strangers. After all, there may even come a time when a child may need to turn to a stranger to ask for help. Debbie Gardner, co-author of Raising Kids Who Can Protect Themselves suggests that in the case of being lost, children should be taught to look for a ”woman with small children, who if they are separated might be able to call a parent’s home or cell phone.”
It’s also important to explain to our children that strangers look like normal people, not monsters. In fact, people who prey on children are very good at getting the interest of a child. Because of this, many experts suggest role playing with your child how someone might approach them such as offering candy, asking for help, or if they’d like to come and meet their new puppy. Then you have the opportunity to teach your child to say a firm “no” and to walk away. If you do role play with your child, keep it matter of fact and calm so as not to overly frighten them, because part of street-proofing children is not just pointing out dangers, but teaching them confidence. “That way they’re more capable of making a good decision in a bad situation”, explains retired Staff Sergeant John Andrews. “You want to be able to tell your child about some of the hazards in the world. You want to arm them with the information of things that could happen. You don’t want to scare your child. You want to ensure that they’ll do the right things.”
Andrews adds that if the worst should happen and “someone is attempting to take your child and grabs them, the child should fall to the ground and start kicking and screaming, to bite if necessary, anything it takes. The child wants to make as much noise and create as much diversion as possible so that other people in the area will want to know what is going on.”
Overall, one of the best things we can instill in our children is confidence to in their own instincts. They should trust that feeling in their gut that tells them if something is safe or not. And if they feel uncomfortable, whether with a stranger or someone they know, they should listen to that feeling and talk with their parents or a trusted adult such as a teacher about their feelings.
Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.