How to Discuss Stranger Danger Without Freaking Out the Little Ones
Have the stranger danger talk without freaking your little ones out.
In a world where Super Heroes, reality television shows, and video games present a picture of life where the good guys always win no matter what, and the ‘bad' guys are overpowered with a bowl of ice cream or the purchase of a new dog, it's hard to imagine our kids would ever be in danger. The fact is that children are always at risk of abuse or abduction, even while at school, church, community activities and in a caring family. So how can you talk to your child about the dangers of strangers, without completely freaking them (and you) out? Here are a few tips to guide you as you teach your child to be more aware of their surroundings and remain safe:
1. Be Honest. It’s not practical to pretend everyone and the entire world is safe. However, there’s a balance between the danger and the resolution. By being honest with your kids about the dangers of the world, you won’t freak them out as long as they know what to do. Focus on the things they can do if faced with danger to instill confidence, not fear. It’s like providing them with a safety toolbox to carry with them wherever they go. Remind them that they don’t need to worry, they just need to know what to do.
2. Get Active. Young people tend to learn best when they are participating. Check out your local community center or school for resources to help you engage your child in the discussion of safety. Using role play can be very powerful and will give them something concrete to fall back on if they have to take action.
3. Use your Resources. Don't be afraid to talk to other parents about how they are teaching their children to be safe. Why not organize a parent safety co-op and make an event of it? Get together and discuss safety strategies as a group, acting out possible scenarios.
4. Teach ‘Friend Danger’. It's important to remember that children are more likely to experience harm by someone that they know and trust versus a complete stranger. Talk about explicit rules of safety for varied situations, such as when kids are with friends, on their own, or with other adults such as babysitters, teachers, or any other adult that isn't a parent. This way, they will be better prepared for any situation.
5. Focus on Feelings. The key to keeping children safe is to help them identify how a situation ‘feels’ and set clear boundaries. Children who can tune into their inner voice and rely on their instinct will be better equipped to set limits with adults and other kids, and react appropriately to a dangerous situation.
The fact that our children will always be at risk is scary, but knowing they’re armed with an arsenal of simple yet effective safety tools is reassuring. The central focus of security is for our children to be aware of their surroundings and have the resources needed if things become uncomfortable. You don’t have to freak them out about the dangers of the world – when children are armed with the skills to stay safe in any situation; they become more self-assured. Confidence equals empowerment to stay away from the bad guys - no Super Hero cape required.
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