Giving kids the tools they need to safely interact with strangers is crucial in today’s world. The first installment of this two-part series covered teaching young children to memorize contact information and knowing whom to talk to and what to say when they get lost. This second article will pinpoint how kids can recognize red flags when interacting with people they don’t know and how to avoid getting into dangerous situations.
You don’t want to scare children into being afraid of anyone they haven’t met. Kids can develop a healthy caution around strangers without being paranoid when you introduce them to new people. Here are a few tips you can teach the children in your care that will help them recognize when someone may be trying to harm them.
Safety Tips for Kids When Interacting with Strangers
1. Don’t Obey an Adult Who Tells you to Disobey Trusted Authority
In general, teaching children to obey is a helpful life skill. They need to learn to follow directions from their parents at home and their teachers at school. But if they meet an adult who is telling them to obey them instead of obeying the established authority figures in their lives, that should be a red flag.
For example, say a child has been told not to accept candy from a stranger. If the stranger offers candy and the child refuses it and says, “I’m not supposed to take candy from strangers,” but the stranger encourages the child to take it anyway, tell the child to refuse to obey, yell “no!” then get away from the person and tell a trusted adult about the situation.
2. Don’t Follow an Adult Who Tries to Lure you Away
Strangers with bad intentions will prey on a young child’s innocence and desire to be friendly and helpful. Or they may try to appeal to a child’s sense of adventure and natural curiosity. It’s up to you to emphatically warn the children under your care that under no circumstances should they ever follow a stranger anywhere without a parent or teacher’s permission.
Some tactics which abductors have used to lure kids away would include a promise to give them a special gift or a request to help the stranger find a lost item or pet. Kids should be taught that safe strangers wouldn’t ask a child they don’t know to follow them, and if anyone ever does so, they should yell “no!” and then run and tell a trusted adult immediately.
3. Don’t Keep Secrets Which Strangers Ask You to Keep from Parents
It’s vitally important to teach children that if a stranger or even an adult they know should ever tell the child to keep a secret from their parents, they should never, ever do so. This is a common strategy which abusers use to hide abuse. Once again, if this request is ever made by anyone, whether a child, teen, or adult, the child should, instead, go straight to their parents and tell them whatever the secret was that the person was asking them to keep.
The best plan for dealing with unsafe situations is to help kids avoid getting into them in the first place. You can greatly reduce a child’s risk of getting into a stranger danger or other potentially threatening scenario by teaching them these simple rules:
1. Always tell mom, dad, or your caregiver if someone does anything that makes you feel unsafe.
2. If someone makes you feel unsafe, yell “no,” run away from the person, and run to a trusted adult right away.
3. For smaller children or kids who tend to stray from the group, always hold hands with an adult or responsible older child when out in public.
4. Always get permission from mom, dad, or your caregiver before you agree to go anywhere with anybody.
5. Don’t isolate yourself from the rest of the group. Predators and kidnappers look for kids who are alone.
As a caregiver, you have the responsibility and privilege of helping the children in your care learn strategies that can help them stay safe. If you’d like more information and safety tips to read and share with the rest of the staff members in your childcare center, you can find it at kidsmartz.org, a valuable resource set up by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. With awareness and training, even preschool-aged children can develop powerful safety skills for interacting with strangers.