This post is part of the Child Safety and Travel series.
When you travel there are going to be strangers around you and your children constantly. The important thing is to work with your children ahead of time, incorporating safety principles into your every day life. Whether you travel or not, these are important things you should be teaching your children about strangers.
Make sure your child knows that a stranger is anyone they don’t know very well. Not all strangers look intimidating or frightening like the mean characters in stories or movies. We even teach our children that anyone you don’t know that knows your name is a stranger. This is important in the information wide world we live in. Someone could look up your kids names on Facebook or notice they have a name on their bracelet. People that try to manipulate children will often use their name as a way to start a conversation with your child and may even use your name as a way to make your child feel safe with them. “Hi little Johnny, your mommy Susan said I should take you home from school today.” In this situation our kids know to run, run, run!
There are also good strangers. I cover information on how to introduce your child to figures of authority in this article. And make sure that your child knows to seek help in public places, where there are many other people that will hear them if they scream for help.
One of the most valuable things a parent can do for their child is coach them on how to handle dangerous situations. The National Crime Prevention Council advocates, “No, Go, Yell, Tell.” Because it is easy to remember. Your children should say no, run as fast as they can, be as loud as they can, and find a helpful adult.
Something else that is helpful is to walk through a detailed situation with your child. “What happens if a person tries to grab you?” We tell our kids to do ANYTHING they can to get away, scratch, bite, scream… literally anything. A great way for them to practice is through martial arts. I know for example that Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teach escape techniques that would prove very helpful in these situations.
Here is a list of common situations your child should be made aware of straight off of the NCPC website:
-A nice-looking stranger approaches your child in the park and asks for help finding the stranger’s lost dog.
-A woman who lives in your neighborhood but that the child has never spoken to invites your child into her house for a snack.
– A stranger asks if your child wants a ride home from school.
-Your child thinks he or she is being followed.
-An adult your child knows says or does something that makes him or her feel bad or uncomfortable.
-While your child is walking home from a friend’s house, a car pulls over and a stranger asks for directions.
You can also make sure you know where child is at all times, instruct them to stay in a group if they are going to be out of sight (running to the other end of the park while you push your baby on the swing), and that it is ok to tell an adult “No!” if they feel unsafe. We teach our children to respect adults and elders, so we really have to put emphasis on this part of dealing with strangers. We tell them something like, “It is ok to be disrespectful if you feel unsafe or like you are in danger. Find someone you can trust to help, right away!” If they make a mistake and offend a well meaning adult, you can always apologize and explain why you establish the stranger safety rules for your family the way you do as a parent. It is definitely better to be on the side of caution.
At the same time remember you are not trying to terrify your child out of wanting to leave the house. Everything has to be balanced, and teaching your children how to deal with strangers is all about awareness, not paralyzing fear.
For more information and tips on how to teach your children about strangers check out this website by the National Crime Prevention Council.
Happy and Safe Travels,