It’s important to teach our children that not all strangers are scary people who look bad. In this day and age, it’s imperative that our kids learn that strangers are anyone they don’t know personally as well as how to react when strangers are around. Then there is the what is a safe stranger? It’s enough to make a parent want to scream.
How is a parent supposed to teach this without making a child fearful? It’s a fine line for sure. Let’s talk about a few things I did with my children.
Talking to your children about strangers
- Have a code word with your child so he knows who is safe to go with. Our rule was it didn’t matter who it was, if they didn’t know the code word, you were not to go with them. This included close personal friends and family. The code word was all or nothing for us. Change it periodically.
- I took my child out shopping with me and had them talk to the employees. This shows them that although they are strangers, you have to talk to some of them in order to do business. I remind my children that the code word rule still applies for going anywhere.
- I teach my children to always go places in pairs. Need to use the bathroom? Take someone with you. Playing on the playground? Stay where the people are and check in with whoever took you regularly. We bring water bottles so water fountain runs are unnecessary.
- Talk about it openly. Point out strangers and role play what to do if you are approached by a stranger. Our rule is to run to a trusted adult if you feel uncomfortable.
- Scream, “Not My Mom” or “Not My Dad” if someone is trying to take them somewhere without their permission. For my family, this applied if an adult was making them feel uncomfortable and they needed us quick. You’d be amazed at how fast you run when you hear your child scream that phrase.
- My children can say “My mom said no.” whenever they are given food or anything like that from a stranger. They have explicit permission to blame me whenever necessary.
Safe strangers are usually public servants like police, fire, and rescue personnel. I feel it’s important to teach them to be respectful to authority figures. We introduce them to police and remind them that are there to help. In an accident, the fire and rescue personnel are there to keep them safe as well as attend to their immediate medical needs. We hammer this in every time we leave for travel.
Safe strangers can also be store employees, cashiers,Co-Op teachers, or anyone they have to interact with to achieve something. It’s important though to remind our children of the code rule. If they don’t know the code then you aren’t to go with them. Safe strangers can sometimes become bad strangers.
The best thing we have ever done with our kids to teach this abstract concept is to role play stranger scenarios. It helps them understand what to do in many situations.
How do you teach your children about stranger danger?
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