This is a subject that is hard and scary for parents to talk to their kids about. The reason is that the world has some very bad people, and we spend our lifetimes protecting our children from that danger. However, we do not want our children to be tainted with the thoughts of the horror and rotten acts of people in this world.
With this in mind, remember that a child who is aware of a stranger and what they might do is more capable of avoiding them. The question remains; How do you teach your children about stranger danger effectively without causing a negative impact?
There are some great ways to do this. Even though it may seem somewhat harmful to teach a child about stranger danger and what can happen, remember you are potentially saving their life.
Here are some tips to help you talk to your kids about stranger danger.
Start talking to your children as early as they understand what you are talking about. This means around 3-5 years old. As soon as a child starts to interact with other people in the world, it is time to start talking about stranger danger.
They need to be able to understand when you say, “A stranger is someone your mommy and daddy do not know.”
The reason it is important for your child to say that their mommy or daddy does not know them is that strangers may sometimes introduce themselves. They will lead a child to think they are not strangers but friends. A child is taught, “I don’t know who you are,” The stranger in turn says “But I am John; you know me now; what is your name?” He has her talking. She thinks about what he is saying. Then all it takes is for him to say. “See, I am not a stranger any more.”
Children are impressionable. This is the time when the child needs to be thinking “You are a stranger.” He says “My name is John, now you know who I am, I am not a stranger.” She thinks, “But my mommy and daddy do not know who you are.” She should then run back to her caregiver.
Do not worry about making your child too afraid. Fear is something that in this circumstance, a child needs to have a little of. When children play with hot things, we tell them no and emphasize that it will burn them. This is the same thing. It is not necessary to use graphic details, because children do not see things that way. For example: “Billy, that stove is hot. It will burn you.” We do not need to go into detail.
Use language that a child can understand. Empowering your child to handle these types of situations with knowledge and action is what will be most effective. This means not only telling them about pedophiles, but also teaching them what to do.
For example: “Billy, there are bad people in this world. Those bad people take little children away from their mommies and daddies. That is what a stranger can do to you. They would take you and you could never come back. So I want you to listen very carefully to me. If a stranger tries to talk to you, and that is someone mommy or daddy does not know, then you need to get away from them. You need to scream loud if they try to grab you. You also need to kick and scream and bite if they try to take you. This is where you are strong and can do the right thing. Do you understand what I am saying? It is very important that you do as I say.”
Without being graphic, there also needs to be an explanation of what is acceptable and what is not. Therefore, it would be a good idea to explain, using a doll, the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touches. Encourage your children not be afraid to tell you. Also, it is not a bad idea to mention that if someone did touch them, and said they could not tell, that they must tell mommy and daddy.
Even though they are impressionable, and very likely scared, children are more accustomed to minding their parents and will consider what you say more important.
Rehearse with your child what they will do if a stranger were to bother them. This includes not talking to them, running away, kicking and screaming, biting and running to safety. Just like with any other action, when it is a habit by doing it over and over, it will become reaction. This reaction as second nature will be the key.
With these tips, it should be a little easier to talk to your children about stranger danger. As soon as they can talk about it, you should be talking. Make sure they understand what to do to empower themselves. You are not scaring them you are making them stronger.