Life Lessons: How to Teach Your Kids about Safety and Strangers
Strangers are everywhere. Most strangers that your children meet will be nice people, but a few may not be. Parents can protect their children by teaching them how to recognize suspicious behavior and what to do when that happens.
Begin by Defining "Stranger"
Start by teaching young children what a stranger is: a stranger is anyone that your family doesn't know well. It's important to teach them that not all "bad strangers" look scary or scruffy. A bad stranger could be the woman at the park, the man in a business suit or the grandpa at the grocery store. You must teach children that you cannot tell if a stranger is nice or not nice by looking at them. They must be careful around all strangers.
But not all strangers are bad. Children need to be able to recognize strangers they can go to for help. Point these helpful strangers out to your kids, including police officers, firefighters, teachers, principals and librarians. It's also important for children to always go to a public place for help, such as a fire station, a grocery store, a library, or a school. Be sure to point these places out to your children.
"No, Go, Yell, Tell"
Next, teach your children what behaviors to be suspicious of and what to do if they run into strangers who act suspicious. In any situation where a child may feel threatened, he should follow "No, Go, Yell, Tell." In a dangerous situation, your child should say NO, run away, yell as loud as he can and tell a trusted adult what happened right away. The following are situations that a child should be suspicious of and tell an adult about.
- Someone asks her to disobey her parents or do something without permission
- Someone asks him to keep a secret
- A stranger asks her for help
- A stranger asks the child to go somewhere with him
- Someone asks the child to do anything that makes the child uncomfortable
The following situations should be discussed with your children. What would they do? Be sure to walk them through the correct things to do and why the situations are dangerous.
- A nice-looking stranger approaches your child in the park and asks for help finding his lost dog.
- A woman who lives in your neighborhood-but who your child has never spoken to-invites your child into her house for a snack.
- Someone offers your child a ride home.
- An adult that your child knows says or does something that makes them feel bad or uncomfortable.
- While your child is on her way home from a friend's house, a car pulls over and asks her for directions.
Here are some additional things that you can do to keep your kids safe:
- Be sure you know where they are at all times and who they are with. Have a phone number where you can reach them.
- Be sure your kids know all your phone numbers and where you are. If your child cannot remember your phone numbers, write them on a card and have them carry the card with them at all times.
- Teach your children that they cannot go anywhere without your permission and make them do periodic check-ins.
Teaching your kids what to do in any situation is the key to keeping them away from situations that can turn out badly. So, teach your children what a stranger is, who they can trust, and what to do in suspicious situations.
Guest author Andrew Wooten was the President of Safety Awareness Firearms Education (S.A.F.E.), and had been in the safety and security industry for more than twenty-six years. He was a recognized expert in safety and security and speaks to thousands of professionals every year.