Stranger Danger - Keeping Your Child Safe.
It’s one of those nightmares every single parent has…someone taking or trying to take you child. As much as we would like to sometimes wrap our kids up in a safe bubble, part of job is to help them to develop in society and show them that we can trust them to handle situations for themselves by letting them venture out on their own (while keeping that watchful eye on them!).
People talk about how “in my day this didn’t happen nearly as much as it does now”, and while this may be true, we need to look at the wider society. Maybe it did happen as much, but there was no internet or 24 hour news channels to beam an incident around the globe within seconds. Only recently, I have seen four different potential abduction incidents through social media in the vicinity of my home town. 30 years ago, would we have heard about these? Definitely not as quickly as we do now. The biggest thing is to teach your child how to deal with potential situations as positively and as safely as possible.
The first point to make is that “scare tactics” will only work to a certain degree. The downside to telling you child “the scary man will come and take you away”, is that your child can start to look out for the “cartoon” scary man and as we all know, some of the most dangerous adults live daily lives in plain sight. They just look normal (don’t believe the police mugshot!). How many times have you read about a neighbour or friend of a serial killer say “…but he/she was such a friendly, quiet person. I can’t believe they did this”. Also many child abuse cases will be committed by someone known to the victim or the victims family. This is not being written to get you suspicious of every person you know who is friendly with you child, remember, the majority of adults you know or are acquainted with, do not want to hurt your child!
1 – You do not go anywhere, with any adult, even if they are a relative, without coming and speaking to mum or dad. Even if the person says to them, “oh I checked with your mum and she said it’s okay”, they still have to come check with you.
2 – If a stranger talks to you and says how nice your shoes, clothes, hair etc is, just smile and walk/run home or back to your friends if they are close and ask them to walk home with you. Tell your mum or dad what happened, what the person looked like and what colour car the were driving, if they were in a vehicle.
3 – If a situation arises where you feel uncomfortable or scared with another adult, it is okay to say no and run home. If they follow you, shout as loud as you can for your parents. Tell your children that they will never get in trouble for shouting and running home if they feel uneasy or threatened, even if the adults turns out to not be a threat.
4 – Don’t ever accept a gift from someone you don’t know. Let your child know that people can try and trick children by being overly “kind” to them.
5 – If someone stops in a car and asks you for directions or help, just ignore them and run home/to friends house. Some people may find this a bit harsh on someone just looking for help, but the object of this is to teach your children to keep them as safe as possible. Most of us would ask an adult for directions rather than a child anyway.
6 – Talk to your children about “safe” adults. By safe adults we mean people who will help your child if they are in trouble or lost. People such as police, teacher or check out assistants if they get lost in a shop. You can start to increase your child’s awareness by pointing out which check out they should go to in a shop if they get separated from you and tell them to stay there.
7 – Your private areas are yours and nobody should touch you or ask you to show them your private areas. Obviously, as a parent, you may have to put cream on sore bums from time to time but let your child know that their private area is not something for other people to touch or want to see. If you need to take your child to the doctor for a check up in these areas, discuss with them that its okay in this case and that you will be with them the whole time.
It is really important to role play these situations with your child in order for them to not only “know” but to experience what they should do in any given situation. Any of us can learn steps to take, like first aid, and be confident that we “know” what to do in an emergency situation, but any of us could forget everything we’ve been taught, when a situation arises. Practise these situations at home.
As a parent, know where your children are. Set them age appropriate boundaries as to how far from the home they can go. Point out neighbours that you know and trust and where they live, in case they get into difficulty and the neighbour/friends house is closer than your own. Also explain to your neighbour/friend that you have told your child this.
Finally, let your child know that you trust them and believe them and that they will never get into trouble if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, even with people they know. As we always say, communication is key when it comes to your kids, and they need to know they can talk to you about anything and you will be ready to listen.