Teaching our children about dealing with strangers can be a tricky thing. Growing up, how many times have your own parents told you to ‘never talk to strangers’? Or maybe, you’ve told this to your own kids too.
This isn’t a very practical way to help your kids deal with strangers. Children naturally become more exposed to strangers as they grow up. And, on the other hand parents should avoid being too overprotective as well – as this can stunt a child’s social development.
So you might be wondering how then, can you teach your kids about dealing with strangers? Here are 5 practical ways, but keep in mind that these methods are for toddlers, preschoolers and younger children.
As your child gets older, other avenues of meeting strangers open up – such as through the internet. We will cover this in a future article. Without further ado, here are the 5 practical ways to teach your kids about dealing with strangers.
1. Use The Term ‘Tricky Person’ Instead of ‘Stranger’
Children are naturally inclined to like people who are kind – even if they are strangers. Which is why teaching your child about dealing with strangers can be tricky. A stranger that offers your child some sweets, or says that he/she are your close friends – it’s easy to trick a child into thinking that this person is simply being kind.
Pattie Fitzgerald, founder of Safely Ever After Inc. advises parents to use the term ‘Tricky Person’ instead of ‘Stranger’. Help your child understand that these people are tricky; they may have a cute kitten they want to show your child or they may be offering ice cream. Help your child understand that kindness especially from strangers may not be genuine.
2. Teach Your Child To Recognize ‘Safe Strangers’
While teaching your child that some strangers are ‘tricky people’ that mean them harm, there may come a time when your child truly requires the help of strangers.
Hence, when teaching your kids about dealing with strangers it may not be practical to tell them to completely avoid people if they truly need help.
Teach your child how to recognize adults that are more likely to be trusted. For example, if your child is lost and mom and dad are nowhere in sight, teach your child to approach a mother with a child. Teach your child to spot people in uniform, such as security guards or a store salesperson with a nametag.
3. Your Child Should Always Have A Physical Copy Of Your Contact Details
A useful habit to have, is to always ensure that your child has a physical copy of your contact details. This may be in the form of a small piece of paper with your name and phone number. Always make sure your child knows where to find this piece of paper.
In the event that your child loses sight of you and needs help, teach your child that the very first thing he or she should do is to look for a ‘safe stranger’ and pass your contact details to that adult.
The next step is very important: Teach your child to ask the stranger to give you a call on his or her mobile phone. If the stranger does not do this, tell your child to stay away and look for another ‘safe stranger’ and repeat the process. Of course, during the call make sure that you request to speak to your child on the phone and you should make your way down to your child’s location – rather than asking the stranger to bring your child to you.
4. Use A Code Word
In Singapore, it’s common for busy parents to rely on relatives or helpers to fetch kids from school. This is fine, but did you know that in most child abuse cases, the perpetrator is usually someone the child knows?
This is why it’s useful to implement a code word that’s secret between you, your spouse and your child. This code word should be something bizarre, yet simple to remember for your child.
When you send someone to pick your child up, share that code word with that person. When you’re teaching your kids about dealing with strangers, tell them never to follow who says that they are picking them up – but don’t know the code word.
If your child is being picked up from preschool, music class, etc. teach your child to head back in and speak to the teacher or instructor.
5. Teach Your Kids How To Stay Safe At Home
Teaching your kids about dealing with strangers shouldn’t just be reserved for the outdoors. Even at home, your child should be taught how to stay safe.
One very common mistake that parents make – especially in a safe city like Singapore – is letting their kids answer the door by themselves. If you’re home with your toddler and the doorbell rings, never let your child answer it alone.
If you have to leave your child alone at home, then it’s best to teach your child to never answer the door. And when the phone rings, teach your child that some things must never be said on the phone. For example, that mom and dad are out – or that there is nobody else at home.
When it comes to your child’s safety, you can never be overly cautious. And while I mentioned earlier that being overprotective can have its drawbacks, you should let your child socialize with strangers IF you are present.
Remember to keep reinforcing these 5 practical ways of dealing with strangers with your kids – don’t assume that your child will remember them the first time.