My children are now 5 and 2. Recently in our county a young girl was kidnapped on her way to school. I've decided it is time to take a closer look at “stranger danger” and how to have the conversation with my children.
Kids Shouldn't Be Taught That All Strangers Are Bad
One of the most confusing things for kids can be understanding that not all strangers are bad. If we only teach our children that they should talk to anyone they don't know then we are really limiting their potential healthy social interactions with the nice checker at the grocery store and their new preschool teachers. Children need to understand that there anyone they don't know is a stranger and they need to be cautious with all strangers. They also need to know that some of those strangers are “tricksters” and they have every intention of taking and hurting them.
Kids Need To Recognize the Harsh Reality That People Will Hurt Them
Its very difficult for children to fully understand that people might actually want to cause harm to them. This darker world doesn't exist as part of their reality until they are much older in life. Leverage existing things in their life such as villains in their cartoons or stories to help explain that there is a real danger out there.
You Need To Establish a Family Secret Word
An age old suggestion that I still feel is relevant is the idea of establishing a secret family code word. Choose a word that would be familiar to the child but that wouldn't be used regularly in conversation. Perhaps the name of a extended relative or the name of a city where you used to live. Teach your children that if you ever were to send anyone to pick them up from school or to give them a ride or take care of them you will give them this secret word.
Consider What Family System You Can Implement to Lower Risk
Family security is generally about making yourself a more difficult victim than the next family. Not a very positive outlook on society but its a reality. Consider where your risks are and eliminate them. If you children walk to or from school, get into a carpool or ride the bus. If you kids play in an unfenced yard, get a fence. Think through the times when there may be vulnerability and eliminate them.
The Best Product I Could Find to Help the Education
Check out The Safe Side – Stranger Safety DVD. Many of you will recognize this DVD from your own childhood. Schools are no longer showing these in classrooms but that shouldn't prevent you from sharing at home. My kids are also raving fans of The Berenstain Bears. If yours are too check out: The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers.