Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
Do you remember how old you were when your parents first told you to be careful not to talk to strangers? Depending on how old you are now, your parents may not have had to have that talk with you until you were school age or older. Unfortunately, given the connected society we live in today, stranger danger language and discussions should become a part of the dialogue you have with your children from a very young age.
When To Start Talking
The minute your child is old enough to play at a playground or be out in public without being strapped to your body in a baby carrier of some kind, stranger danger conversations should begin. When you are talking to young children about the dangers of the world, your instinct may be to shield them from the knowledge, but they need to know not to follow the nice man with the puppy at the park just because he tells them mommy says it’s ok. Bad things happen very, very quickly.
Not Every Bad Person Looks Bad
It is important that you communicate to your children that not all bad people come in the form of the big, bad wolf…and that not all bad people are men. The more he or she understands about what could happen, the likelier it is that your child can take an active role in preventing it from happening.
As your child gets older, it’s important to expand the conversation. By the time your child is of potty-training age, you should begin conversations about good and bad touching and good and bad secrets (good secrets being the ones where you don’t ruin or surprise or tell what a person’s present is; bad secrets are everything else). You don’t have to be explicit to let your children know that their private parts are private, and that they can and should say no whenever they feel uncomfortable. Empowering your child to say no, even to an adult, is one of the best tools you can give them.
Teach Kids To Trust Their Gut
It is very important to teach your children to listen to their bodies. Children can be taught to recognize that gut instinct or bad feeling and act on it. The more you trust and empower them, the less likely it will be that they end up as a victim.
To protect your children from strangers, never write their names on the outside of their backpack, lunch box, jackets, or other items they carry with them to and from preschool or school. Play out scenarios with them if you’re going somewhere new. Ask them what they would if a stranger approached them. If you are in a crowded public place, make your child hold your hand. At parks and public venues, keep them in sight and check in with your child often. Better yet, get out there and play with your child.
Stranger danger conversations can seem intimidating, but think of it as just another success tool you are giving your child. The more prepared your child is, the more successful the child will be. The more empowered your child is, the safer he or she will be.