Even though there are a number of dangers that face children in today’s society, one of the most feared dangers is that of dangerous strangers. It can be the most heartening for parents today, which is why it is important to speak with your children about strangers and all of the potential danger they bring with them. Helping children to understand the dangers that they face when a stranger is around is one of the most effective tools for helping them to stay safe and away from harm.
Consider the following from the Department of Justice:
• Over the course of one year, 797,500 children went missing. That equates to around 2,185 children each and every day.
• Family abductions amounted to 203,900 children every year.
• Abductions by non-family members equated to around 58,200 children annually.
• Kidnapping accounts for 115 children where they didn’t know the person or only slightly knew them. Thousands of success stories are out there about children who had an abductor approach them and they acted in a manner that ended up saving their lives. They were able to use the information that parents, community events and schools provided to them. Talking with your children about strangers can help to save their lives. Based on the age of your children, you will need to approach the topic of strangers in a certain manner.
Since preschool children don’t have a great deal of fear, they are normally willing to talk or say hello to anyone that they come in contact with. Even though you don’t want to scare your children with the reality of an abduction, you do want them to understand the importance of staying safe. Begin by providing them with a simple explanation, there are bad people who want to harm children, which is why is it important that you don’t ever:
• Speak to a stranger
• Open the door if you hear someone ringing the doorbell or knocking
• Leave your parent’s side when outside or in the store
• Go outside without an adult that can be trusted
• Go with a stranger who is unable to find his dog, offers you candy, offers you money, asks to show you something in their vehicle and so on
• Approach a vehicle that you don’t know, regardless of if they know your name or your parent’s name Make sure to keep the information for children simple and straight to the point. If they ask you any questions, you will want to be honest with them. Always keep the honesty in line with their specific age group. Discuss simple tactics with your children in the event they are approached or don’t feel safe in a certain situation. Screaming and trying to get away from the danger or stranger are both excellent points to make to them.
Points to consider:
• Keep the information simple and straight to the point.
• Be honest when your children ask any questions of you.
• Discuss potential tactics with your children on how to get away from strangers such as screaming and running.
• Go over all of the main points discussed previously. Kindergarten to Third Grade
Children who are a little older will know more about strangers through community activities, schools and the news. This age group still needs to be told about what they should avoid doing to ensure their safety, such as:
• Never speak with a stranger.
• Avoid opening the door if you hear someone ringing the doorbell or knocking.
• Stay close to your parents when outside or in a store.
• Never head outdoors without an adult present.
• Never trust a stranger who says they cannot find their dog, offers you candy, offers to show you something, offers you money and so on.
• Stay away from strange cars, regardless of whether they know your name or the name of your parents. Many families decide to implore the use of a code word that only the family members are going to know. In the event of an emergency, an adult will be able to give the word to a trusted friend or family member so the child will know the person is someone that is safe. Children need to understand the importance of not giving the keyword to anyone.
Children in this age group understand what safe people are, so you will want to go through this with them. If children are lost or there is an issue with a stranger, children will need to feel safe approaching certain individuals who are:
• Store personnel
• Police officers, fire, EMT and security guards
• Mail carriers
• Mothers who have children with them
• Office staff Children will have the option of running to someone who is not going to harm them. If an incident happens when the child is alone, separated from their parent or gets lost, they will know who to turn to for assistance.
Points to Ponder:
• Discuss safe people with your children.
• Implore a code word for the family to use.
• Discuss tactics for fighting a stranger and getting to a safe place.
• Make sure children understand they need to stay in a group with other children if they are going to play outside or walk home from school. Fourth through Sixth Grade
Children who fall into this category need to consider dangers, so that way they are not as dangerous as you might think. For this particular age group, children need to understand the extent of stranger danger. Discuss cases you know about in the family, through the media or with friends. Even though you may not need to tell them all of the case details, you will want to be honest about the situation with your child. Tell them if the child lost their life or got away. Even though you may not want children living in fear, you do want to let them know the dangers associated with strangers.
As children get older, you will want to have important numbers of friends and family close by and a cell phone or whistle, especially if they are going to walk home from school or remain inside of the house without a parent after school hours. Children need to implement some type of buddy system. It is imperative that they walk with a group of friends or friend to get where they need to go. For those who are isolated, they tend to pose more of a risk than those who walk in a large group.
Make sure to discuss tactics for fighting and screaming to break away from strangers who attempt to grab them. Tell the children that they need to do whatever they can to get away from the stranger. Don’t allow the person to get them into the car, no matter what. If the person were to get them into the car, they will end up somewhere far away that can make it difficult to find them in the long run. Let them know that kicking, biting, screaming and anything else necessary to get away is perfectly acceptable.
Consider These Points:
• Discuss the dangers associated with strangers.
• Make sure children keep all of the important phone numbers with them, as well as a cell phone or whistle at all times.
• Discuss who the safe people are.
• Talk about screaming and various other tactics to get away from a stranger.
• Make sure they understand the importance of staying in a group of children when playing outside or walking home from school. Strangers: Who Are They?
One of the biggest things children need to understand is what you mean when you say a stranger. Not everyone they don’t know is dangerous to them, so they need to understand the differences between a bad stranger and a good stranger. Put it into terms that the child is going to understand. Children need to know where they can turn to and who to talk to in the event they are lost, threatened, scared or if they believe someone is following after them.
Some examples of good strangers include security guards, police officers, store clerks, teachers and so on. If your child were to need assistance, these individuals are someone that they can turn to for the assistance and security that they need. In countless situations, your children may have a bad stranger come up to them in the park, on the street and so on. If an easily identifiable person is not around to help, children need to know what they can do to get away from the stranger.
Children need to understand that they are generally more good people than there are bad ones. If a bad stranger approaches them and tries to physically pull them or lure them away, they need to do whatever it takes to get the attention of another adult in the area. Regardless of whether that means running to another home or making noise, most adults will come to help children who are in potential danger.