Teaching stranger safety to your children needs to begin when they are preschoolers and continue through their teenage years.
Preschoolers and Stranger Safety
As parents, you want to keep your children safe from harm. Teaching preschoolers about stranger safety needs to be done in a way that makes them aware and wary of strangers without making them overly fearful of every stranger they see. However, in recent years the terms stranger safety and stranger danger have come under criticism by some experts in the field of child safety. They believe that a young child does not fully understand the meaning of the word stranger, that it is too vague.
The Safe Side DVD created by the host of America's Most Wanted, John Walsh, and Julie Clark, of the Baby Einstein Company, thoroughly explains the reasoning behind the change in terminology and the new recommended terms which are:
- Don't Knows which are strangers
- Kinda Knows which are people such as a neighbor, a regular store clerk or your boss
- Safe Side Adults which are people that the child trusts and knows very well such as parents, grandparents or a special teacher.
Teaching Stranger Safety to Preschoolers
It is important to talk to your child about the meaning of the word stranger if you do not choose to use the Safe Side DVD method. Simply telling a young child not to talk to strangers is confusing if they are not sure what a stranger really is. For example, a young child may be confused and wonder:
- Why it is OK to talk to certain people that are strangers at first such as a new teacher, the librarian or a new neighbor
- Why a person is a stranger if they look like someone they know and see often
Practice role-playing situations with your child that reinforces safety rules. The following are several examples of safety rules to role play while teaching stranger safety:
- Grown-ups should not ask children for help. They should ask other grown-ups. Do not go with someone asking for help even if they say they lost their puppy.
- Never go anywhere with a stranger.
- If a stranger gets too close to you, backup or run for help.
- If a stranger grabs you, kick, yell and scream.
Read your children books about strangers and then talked to them about the book. Several books on this topic are:
- The Bernstein Bears Learn about Strangers by Jan and Stan Bernstein
- Never Talk to Strangers by S. D. Schindler and Irma Joyce
- Who Is a Stranger and What Should I Do? By Linda Walvoord Girard
- A Stranger in the Park by Donna Day Asay and Stuart Fitts
Resources for Teaching Children about Stranger Danger
The Internet offers many websites that provide coloring sheets, games and puzzles to reinforce the rules of stranger safety.
The following is a small sampling of these websites:
- McGruff on Dangerous Strangers
- Stranger Danger coloring pages
- What to Teach Kids About Strangers for parents and kids to play together
- Stranger Danger activities for preschoolers
Stranger Safety and Older Children
Teaching your children about stranger safety needs to be an ongoing process as they get older.
- Older children and young teenagers need to be reminded of the possible dangers of dealing with strangers both in person and online.
- Teach your child to practice safety in numbers when they are out in public.
- Make it a practice to have your child tell you, or another responsible adult, where they are going to be when they go out.
- Teach your child to walk away from any situation or person that makes them feel threatened or uncomfortable in any way.
- Monitor the websites your child visits when surfing the Internet. Explain to them it is not an invasion of their privacy, is a way to keep them safe.
Keeping the lines of communication and conversation open with your children is very important. Always take the time to really listen to what they have to say.