Stranger danger is real. And even though I loathe the idea of robbing my kids of any innocence by explaining stranger danger, I dislike the idea of them being a victim more. It is a fine line to walk, preparing kids for reality without making them afraid of everyone. They need to beware of the fact that danger exists, but not necessarily the details of the danger.

The most important thing you can do with your kids is talk to them and establish some rules. For example, my daughter is not allowed to get inside anyone’s car unless I am standing there saying she can, or if they have the password. We have talked about how it doesn’t matter if it is someone we know. Even if grandma comes rolling up, if she doesn’t have the password we don’t get in the car. Statistics show that kids are more likely to be snatched from people they know. But please don’t misunderstand, I don’t think anyone in my family is likely to take my kids, this just sets the standard. If we say no to grandma, it’s much easier to understand saying no to the nice neighbor.

Another rule in my house is that my kids are never allowed to open the door. Period.
We have also gone over what to do if someone tries to get them to go with them. We have of course set the rule that we don’t go with anyone but mommy or daddy, but that doesn’t mean that someone won’t try and force the issue. In that instance my kids are instructed to make as much noise as possible. Most importantly to say as loud as they can, “This is not my mom/dad!”

If my kids become separated from me while in public, we have rules in place there too. They are instructed to look for someone in uniform to help them. A store employee, a police officer, etcetera. However, they are not to wander away from where they are. If they cannot see someone in uniform to help I give them permission to scream their heads off. This accomplishes two things. First, I recognize my kid’s screams. This will help me find them. And second, it will alert people in the area of a problem. Most predators don’t like noise, so hopefully they will shy away from my noisy, screaming child.

As kids get older, new problems arrive. You can be more frank with them about the possibilities of dangers. At the same time, the older they are, the more likely they are to have periods of time where they are unsupervised. My friends with older kids suggest having cell phones with GPS enabled. That way they can check to see if their kids are where they are supposed to be any time.

Online chat rooms offer a whole new set of worries. My suggestion there is to keep computers in “public” areas of the home. Also invest in some quality online monitoring software.

– Stephanie Wright

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