5 Back To School Stranger Safety Tips


Stranger Danger Safety TipsIt’s time for the kids to go back to school again.  School supplies to buy, teachers to meet, and new friends to make.  A change from the lazy days of summer to the hustle and bustle of the school year.  That makes this the perfect opportunity to talk with your kids about safety around strangers.  Research suggests that 38% of attempted abductions occur while a child is walking alone to or from school, riding the school bus or riding a bicycle.  Here we’ll give you some tips on how to talk with your kids so that they know how to respond if they are in a dangerous situation with a stranger.

But before we talk to our children about danger from strangers, we as parents need to keep a few things in mind.  Studies have consistently shown that people who hurt children are most often people that the child knows, many times even people in their own family, rather than complete strangers.  In fact, more than 75% of kidnappings are committed by family or acquaintances.

As parents we are more fearful of stranger abductions than we are about the more common kidnappings by family members or acquaintances. It’s only natural.  We think, no one my child knows will harm them, right?  Well, unfortunately the statistics say otherwise.  That’s why it’s just as important to teach our kids how to stay safe in general, from both strangers and people that they know.

It’s also important to educate our kids about strangers in a way that doesn’t make them so frightened that they will never want to leave the house!  When talking with your kids about strangers, you need to stay calm and matter of fact.  If you can’t remain calm when teaching them about these dangers, you can’t expect them to be level headed if they ever are actually approached by a stranger.

Here are some tips you can use to start a lifelong conversation with your children about staying safe if they are approached by a stranger.  Don’t worry, you shouldn’t try to cover all of these concepts in one sitting.  Instead, work them into discussions with your kids using your best judgment:

First things first, who is a stranger?  Strangers are ANYONE that you don’t know.  They’re not scary looking people, in fact they usually look like nice people.  But if you don’t know them then that makes them a stranger.  Strangers might even use your child’s name to trick them into thinking they know them, but if your child doesn’t actually know the person then they are still a stranger.  There’s a quick online quiz that goes through pictures asking “Is this person a stranger?”  The answer to all of the questions is yes, and it’s neat to show your child how normal strangers can look.

Next, explain to your child that “most strangers are good, but there are some bad strangers who might try to hurt you.”  Explain that “they might try to touch you in a way that is bad or they might try to take you away from your parents and hurt you.  Again, most strangers aren’t like this, but it’s important to know what to do if you are approached by a stranger so that you can stay safe.”  Good strangers will usually approach a child only when a parent is around and can tell the child whether the person is safe or not.  Bad strangers, on the other hand, usually approach children when they are alone or without their parent.

The most important thing to teach your child about strangers is NOT to go anywhere with them.  Bad strangers might try to get children to go into their car or go to a private location.  Teach your children that they need yell, bite, kick, and scream to get away from a stranger who tries to take them somewhere.  Stay far away from their car and turn and run away (screaming) if possible.  Make sure they know they will NOT get into trouble for doing this, since it’s exactly the opposite of what we usually teach our children about good manners.

You also need to tell your children that bad strangers will make up lies to try to trick children into going with them.  They might use any of the following: “Your mom is sick and asked me to give you a ride,” “I need directions, can you help me,” “I’ve lost my puppy, can you look for him with me,” “You have to come with me now or your whole family will be killed,” or “You’re so pretty, I’m a photographer and would like to take your picture for a magazine.”  Teach your children NEVER to fall for these tricks.  Role play with them about these scenarios and let them know that you would NEVER send a stranger to get them in the event of an emergency.  Another good tip is telling your kids that adults wouldn’t ask a child for help, they would ask another adult.  So, if an adult is asking a child for help then that should be a signal to the child that they need to get away!

Last but not least teach your children who to look for if they are not with you and are approached by a stranger or get lost.  Get as far away from the stranger as quickly as possible and find a safe adult to get help.  They can ask for help from another adult that that they know, a store clerk, policeman, teacher, neighbor, or another mom with small children.  Teach them your cell phone number so that they can always know how to reach you if they are separated from you.

There’s more we can all do to educate our kids on staying safe, but these five tips are a good start to a lifelong conversation about safety. This back to school season, what tips do you have about talking to your kids about safety and strangers?  We’d love to hear from you as we work together for the protection of all of our children.

Dr. Polly Dunn is a child psychologist, mom of four, and blogger.  For more of her ‘Perfectly Imperfect Parenting Solutions’ you can find her at www.ChildPsychMom.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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