Monday, September 24, 2012

Stranger Danger

As I mentioned not too long ago, I recently watching the Dateline special "My Child Would Never: Stranger Danger".  Wow.  What an eye opener.  It made me really wonder what Katie would do.  It also made me very aware of the fact that we need to start having these conversations, like, now.  That way it can start sinking in.  

On Today's Mom, there is an article related to that special I watched that also gives a few pointers.  That article can be found {here}.  I especially like the idea of having a "safe word" that only "safe people" know (close friends, family, etc), as well as having a "code" that a child texts or says when he or she is in danger. On the show, one of the people suggested teaching your child to look at people's eyes when talking to them. To tell them they need to be able to see what color people's eyes are when talking to them - that way they come across as confident, which can scare predators away.

I found another article that makes suggestions on ways to talk about this issue based on the age of your child.    This is what it says for preschool age children:
Preschool children normally have no fear, they are willing to say hello or talk to almost any adult they see. Although you don’t want to scare your younger children with the truth of abductions, you do want them to know how important it is that they stay safe. Start with a simple explanation, “there are really bad people who want to hurt children, therefore it’s very, very important that you never…”
  • Talk to strangers
  • Open the door when someone is knocking or ringing the bell
  • Leave mom’s side at the store or when we are somewhere outdoors.
  • Go outside without me or a trusted adult.
  • Go with a stranger who can’t find his dog, wants to give you candy, wants to show you something, wants to give you money, etc.
  • Approach a strange car, even if they know mom’s name or your name.
Keep the information simple, yet straightforward. If your children ask you questions be honest, of course age appropriate honesty. Go over simple tactics with your child should they be approached or feel unsafe in a certain situation, such as screaming or trying to get away from a stranger or other types of danger.
Main points to address:
  • Keep it simple, but straightforward.
  • Go over the main points (as emphasized above.)
  • Be honest with your children if they ask you questions.
  • Go over screaming and tactics to fight and get away from a stranger.

Another way I find it easy to start a conversation with Katie is to read a book and talk about what is going on in the story.  Here are a couple books I found on Amazon (and yes, I plan to purchase them - I will do a post once we receive them and I am able to sit down and read them with Katie).  On a sidenote, when I found these books, books on the topic of body parts being your own and that type of thing came up.  Whew - that is a whole other topic, but it is definitely important!!
Another article that some friends suggested I read gave this topic a different spin.  Is it more about "tricky people" instead of "strangers"?  That is a very true point made in this blog post.  This article quotes a child safety educator as saying, "Stop telling your kids not to talk to strangers. They might need to talk to a stranger one day. Instead, teach them which sorts of strangers are safe. You know who’s safe? A mom with kids. Period. Your kid gets separated from you at the mall? Tell her to flag down the first mom with kids she sees."  Interesting way of thinking about it, huh!  Here are a few additional points made in the article:
  • It is unlikely your kid is going to be abused by a weirdo at the park (huge sigh of relief).
  • That said, if there is a weirdo at the park, he’s not going to fit the “stranger” model — so stop teaching your kid about strangers! He’s going to come up to your kid and introduce himself. Voila! He ain’t a stranger anymore.
  • Teach your kids about TRICKY PEOPLE, instead. TRICKY PEOPLE are grown-ups who ASK KIDS FOR HELP (no adult needs to ask a kid for help) or TELLS KIDS TO KEEP A SECRET FROM THEIR PARENTS (including, IT’S OKAY TO COME OVER HERE BEHIND THIS TREE WITHOUT ASKING MOM FIRST. Not asking Mom is tantamount to KEEPING A SECRET.)
  • Teach your kids not to DO ANYTHING, or GO ANYWHERE, with ANY ADULTS AT ALL, unless they can ask for your permission first.
A couple more articles written on this topic can be found here and here.  Gosh - this parenting thing is hard.  There are so many topics that you want to make sure your kids have the best advice about.  Obviously trusting your gut instinct can take you very far.  But I want to do any and everything to make sure these two of mine stay safe and healthy.  And this is just a drop in the bucket (internet safety, bullying, body boundaries, sex, etc).  Please let me know if you have any other ideas!


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