Stranger Danger - how we can keep them safe but NOT scared!
After my Sunrise interview this morning which just touched on some of the basics of child safety, I wanted to share with parents, more in-depth advice on how to help keep your kids safe but NOT scared when talking about things like Stranger Danger.
In my experience, compared to reported child sexual abuse, stranger danger abductions are extremely low.
Most reported and substantiated child abductions are usually identified as parental abductions or due to children/parent’s hypervigilance.
This does not mean we cannot expect it to happen and that we shouldn’t take some precautions, especially with our young children it just means that stranger danger is just a small percentage of the actual risk to our kids.
Most important things to cover when talking to our children about stranger danger:
- Teach our kids their body safety rights and help them identify what it feels like to them when they feel unsafe (early warning signs). Do they get SHAKEY KNEES, BUTTERFLIES IN THEIR TUMMY, HEADACHES, UNABLE TO TALK, so that they know when to tell someone when they feel unsafe.
- Help them identify their safety network or their safe people/adults: MUM, DAD, GRANDPARENTS, TEACHERS, POLICE, CARERS so that you can than introduce the topic of strangers and that we don’t talk or go anywhere with strangers because they aren’t our safety people.
- Have a conversation around strangers or people we don’t know –
Strangers are people who aren’t part of our safety network and that they aren’t our friends. We don’t know them, haven’t met them before with our parents than they aren’t our friends and we don’t go with them because they aren’t our friends.
Scenario or role play with questions like –
WHAT COULD KIDS DO IF? someone they don’t know or isn’t their safety person asks them to go with them or look at their sand castle?
The answer might be yelling NO, runaway and find their safe adult/parent. Get them to act it out.
- Reinforce that they are never in trouble if they say ‘NO’ to an adult or someone older that they don’t know or if they ever feel unsafe.
Safe adults won’t make them feel unsafe or hurt them and won’t ask them to do something like leave their school, playground and won’t offer free things or give you something without talking to your parents first.
What age should your child be when having these conversations?
Depends on their language skills and their developmental stage. You could be having these conversations from around kindergarten.
How do you stop kids from becoming fearful?
By helping them understand their body safety rights, that they have the right to feel safe at all times and what they can do if they feel unsafe, so they know what to do if an incident were to happen.
Role playing and having a conversation like “what could kids do if a stranger asked them to go with them to look at their puppy?”
Makes it so they aren’t talking about themselves but are still coming up with ideas on how to approach the situation and encourage critical thinking. It also empowers them to know what to do if they are ever in that situation.
What practises families should put in place to minimise stranger danger?
- Create a family safety password – something exclusive to your family. Get your child’s help to choose the word and don’t share it with anyone. IT COULD BE PART OF THE SCENARIO/ROLE PLAYING YOU DO WITH YOUR CHILD TO MAKE THEM FEEL EMPOWERED – WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
- SUPERVISE AND BE PRESENT whilst your child is in public like parks, shopping centres, public toilets, playgrounds.
- TAKE NOTE of the other adults in the area, especially those without children with them. Be sure to look them in the eye, take note of who they are and keep an eye on them – just in case!
For further information on how to teach body safety or talk about topics like this, grab a copy of Operation KidSafe - a detective's guide to child abuse prevention (if you haven't already).
I have only 100 signed copies left!