Stranger safety is a term I’m sure you’ve heard before. As a parent, you know how important it is to protect your children. But what’s the best way to teach kids to be safe around strangers? Telling kids “Don’t talk to strangers” can be confusing to a child. Kids don’t inherently understand the word “stranger”. If you’re looking for an easy way to teach the children in your life stranger safety, I’m here to help!
I will give you simple steps to follow when discussing stranger safety with your kids. Don’t be afraid to have this conversation with your children. Many parents avoid the topic because they feel it will frighten their children. Just think about that for a minute. Wouldn’t you rather talk about stranger safety with your kids and prepare them? Arm your children with the knowledge they need to stay safe. There’s no better time than the present to have this talk with your kids. Get started today!
The Easy Way to Discuss Stranger Safety
Kids get confused when you simply say “Don’t talk to strangers”. Here’s a better way to explain it to your children. Let’s break out of the “stranger” term and give kids a better way to know who’s safe and who’s not safe. Below I will give you 3 terms you can introduce to your kids. For simplicity’s sake, there are only 3 types of people your child will ever encounter.
The 3 Types of People Your Child Will Encounter
Introduce the terms below to your kids. You will be amazed at how quickly they understand and feel comfortable with this type of stranger safety education. In the next section I will go into further detail about these groups of people and how to discuss this with your kids.
1. Safe Adults: You will choose THREE PEOPLE to be your child’s “safe adults”. A “safe adult” is someone your child can always trust to go with or talk to. I will go into more detail in the next section.
2. Don’t Know:A person your child has never met before.
3. Kinda Know: Someone your child has met before, or even someone they may know. “Kinda knows” are not “safe adults”. This could be someone like: a neighbor, a soccer coach or even a parent’s friend.
This is one of the most important ground rules to set with your children. Sit down as a family and name 3 people who will be your child’s “Safe Adults”. In my family my husband and I are a given. We are “Safe Adults” to our children. They understand that. We also named my two parents (Grandma & Daddoo) and my husband’s mother (Oma) as our children’s safe side Adults. It’s up to you to decide who will be your children’s safe adults. Who do you trust 100% with your kids?
Basically, a “Safe Adult” is someone your child can ALWAYS trust to go with or talk to. If you’re ever unable to get your child from school, a sporting event, etc.. you would trust these people to get your child in your absence. If your kids have 3 “Safe Adults” then they will know it’s safe to go with these people. This is important because child predators often lie to children and manipulate them to leave with them. I will go into this more when I discuss “Don’t Knows” and “Kinda Knows”.
A “Don’t know” would fit into the “stranger” as we know it category. A “Don’t Know” is someone your child has never seen or met before. It’s important to explain to your child that you can’t tell if someone is nice or not just by looking at them. If your child has never met someone before that person is considered a “Don’t Know”. It’s always the safest thing for a child to get to their “Safe Adult” as quickly as possible if a “Don’t Know” tries to talk to them or get them to leave with them.
Explain these things to your children:
• NEVER talk to a “Don’t Know” if he/she isn’t with a “Safe Adult”
• It’s NEVER OKAY to leave with a “Don’t Know”.
• A “Don’t Know” should never ask a child for help. Some “Don’t Knows” may lie or try to trick children by offering them candy, gifts or by asking children for help. Tell your children if a “Don’t Know” is asking for help or offering them something, they should run and tell their “Safe Adult” right away.
• If a “Don’t Know” tries to grab your child or take them out of the store or area, your child should YELL: “HELP! THIS ISN’T MY MOM!” or “HELP! THIS ISN’T MY DAD!” Your child should fight to get away while yelling this over and over again. Then your child should run away and find a “Safe Adult” right away.
I have seen some kids get confused about stranger safety and refuse to talk to the grocery clerk at the checkout line when they have a “Safe Adult” by their side. You can explain to your children that they are safe when in the company of a “Safe Adult” and they can feel comfortable talking to other adults in the company of a “Safe Adult”.
A “Kinda Know” is someone your child has met before, but is not a “Safe Adult”. This is often where stranger safety education leaves a gaping hole. The scary thing about child abductions is that many times the crime is committed by someone the child has met before: a family friend, a parent’s co-worker, a sports coach, etc.. It’s important to discuss this aspect of stranger safety with your kids.
This is where your list comes in handy. Did you write down the 3 “Safe Adults” you chose for your kids? You certainly should! Explain to your kids that if someone is not on their “Safe Adult” list they are considered “Kinda Knows”. Even Aunts and Uncles, neighbors, coaches, etc.. would be considered “Kinda Knows”. It’s important that you talk about this regularly with your kids. I will also tell you about a fun, educational video you can have your children watch regularly to refresh their memory as well.
Quiz Your Kids
Once you have discussed the three categories of people with your kids and made your list of “Safe Adults” you can quiz your kids. As I mentioned my kids have grandparents as their 3 “Safe Adults”: Grandma, Daddoo and Oma. So, below are a couple sample questions I would ask my children.
1. If you were at the playground or outside school and your football coach came up and said “Your Mom’s in the hospital and told me to come pick you up, come on we should go check on her now”. Would it be okay to leave with him? What would you do?
- My kids should know it’s not okay to leave with their football coach. Even though they have met him before, he is still a “Kinda Know” and not a “Safe Adult”. We agreed that I would only send “Safe Adults” in my place if I can’t be there to get them for any reason.
- They should recognize that this is a trick. Just like “Don’t Knows” “Kinda Knows” may lie to get children to leave with them.
2. If we went to Wal-mart and you were looking at toys while Mommy was a few aisles over and a “Don’t Know” came up and offered to buy you the toy you were looking at. Is it okay to go with that person?
- My kids should know it’s not okay to go anywhere with a “Don’t Know”. No matter what the “Don’t Know” is offering them.
- They should immediately get away from the “Don’t Know” and find me. I will also give a couple other great tips about who a child can go to when confronted with a situation like this.
Other Great Tips
By now you and your kids should have a pretty good idea of how to handle different situations. But, what if your child gets lost in a store? Panic might set in if they can’t find you and are surrounded by a bunch of “Don’t Knows”. There are a few things you can explain to a child to help them if ever faced with a similar situation.
• If your child is lost in a store, they can go to someone who works there and ask for help. Most large stores have an overhead paging system. Make sure your child knows his/her full name and your full name. It’s also a good idea to teach kids your phone number and address.
• If your child is lost at an event or other area where they cannot find an employee, the safest thing to do is find a mother with children and ask them for help. Be sure your child understands that they should never leave the store or event with this mother. This person should just help them find an employee who can assist.
Teaching children about stranger safety is so important. Having these discussions with your kids may just save their lives one day. It’s a scary world we live in. Don’t be afraid to have these talks with your kids. Protect them by empowering them to keep themselves safe. We can’t be with our kids 24/7, sometimes they are without us.
If your kids know what to do when faced with a potentially dangerous situation they will come back to you safe and sound.
The best educational video I have found for educating kids about stranger safety is “The Safe Side”. This video was created by John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted) and Julie Clark (creator of Baby Einstein). It teaches kids stranger safety in a fun and engaging way. The video is not scary, it’s actually hilarious at times. The main character in the video is “Safe Side Super Chick”. You will fall in love with this zany character. My kids adore this video. They have probably watched it 25 times and beg to watch it again and again. I recommend having your kids watch this video at least once a month to refresh their memory.