Teaching your children about stranger danger can feel like a daunting task. As we think about the many ways that children can get lost or hurt in the world, it might feel overwhelming to try to teach them to be safe. But there are safe people and safe situations as well as unsafe ones. Helping your children understand the difference between the two and how to advocate for themselves in an unsafe scenario is crucial to their protection. Here are some ways to teach your kids about strangers.

Building Trust

A grandfather walking down the road, hand in hand, with his grandchild.

Image via Flickr by freestocks.org

The first and most important step in teaching your children about stranger danger is gaining their trust. Kids need to know that they can talk to their parents about uncomfortable situations and ask questions if they need to. Children actually have impressive instincts when it comes to feeling safe or unsafe with people, so you can help them feel safe with you and other family members while encouraging them to trust their instincts and talk to you about times when they feel unsafe. 

Teach Body Safety

It’s vital for children to understand what’s appropriate when it comes to their bodies. This can be especially difficult for little ones who are used to getting diapers changed, taking baths with siblings, and running around the house in pull-ups or undies. An easy way to explain body safety is to remind kids that they should only have their clothing off with a safe adult around like a parent. This includes trips to the doctor.

The other aspect of body safety is teaching kids about private parts. You can decide the words and descriptions you use based on age and their ability to understand things, but a basic understanding of what is safe and unsafe is important. A young child should know that it’s not okay for a stranger or even a person they know to ask them to remove certain pieces of clothing without reason or without a guardian present. 

This can also help kids learn to own their bodies and recognize that they are allowed and even encouraged to turn down certain forms of touch or affection from others. It can get complicated when a grandparent wants a kiss and the child doesn’t want to give one, but such scenarios can be handled case by case as you feel comfortable as a parent. 

Define a Stranger

What is a stranger? Especially for very young children, this can be a hard concept to learn. Of course, Mommy and Daddy aren’t strangers, but what about the next-door neighbor or the mailman, or aunts and uncles? It’s important for your kids to know which adults they can and cannot trust. You can simply give your children a list of trustworthy adults in their lives. Don’t just stick with family, but be sure to branch out into friends, neighbors, teachers, and others. 

Your child may end up in a situation where they actually need to talk to a stranger. If you’re out at a busy festival or in a crowded store and your child gets separated from you, they might need help from a stranger. Teach them to identify safe strangers. Two easy ways to identify safe strangers are looking for adults with kids like other moms, dads, or grandparents who have young kids with them or looking for adults with uniforms on. Kids can easily learn to identify police and security officers as well as store employees by looking for uniforms and nametags. 

Give Them Do’s and not All Don’ts

A simple “don’t talk to strangers” doesn’t actually help kids understand how to help themselves in difficult or uncomfortable situations that may come up. Instead of giving your child a long list of what not to do, help them learn what they should do. Keep it simple and straightforward with explanations like:

  • If a stranger asks for help, come find me and tell me before doing anything.
  • If a stranger asks you to go somewhere with them, always ask me for permission before agreeing to go or following them. I need to always know where you are. 
  • If a stranger or adult asks you to keep a secret that makes you uncomfortable, it’s important that you tell me about it. You won’t get in trouble. 

Talk About Internet Safety

Once your kids are old enough to use a computer or smartphone, it’s important that they understand internet safety. Predators look for ways to convince young children to share information with them about their whereabouts and personal information. One simple way to help kids stay safe while using the internet is to download a family filtering program on the computer. These filters help children avoid dangerous and inappropriate websites.

If you have teenagers using social media, make sure they understand their accounts’ privacy and location settings. Certain apps will automatically share your child’s location with their followers. This is an easy way for predators to find out where your kids are at a particular time and what their patterns are. For instance, do they post a picture of themselves hanging out with friends at the local mall every Friday night? 

As kids are learning to navigate social media, email, and other ways of communicating over the internet safely, they can apply many of the same rules of stranger danger that apply on the streets. If someone they don’t know tries to message or communicate with them, they should not answer and even block that person if possible. There are lots of other tips and tricks for teaching your kids to interact safely with others on the internet.

At Crème de la Crème, we create a welcoming and safe environment that helps children understand what is safe behavior and how to ask for help if they need it. We also focus on developing important social skills through our various programs and curriculum. We welcome children for early childcare, preschool, kindergarten, after school programs, and summer camps. The character education program focuses on helping children learn to process and express their emotions appropriately, an essential element to protecting themselves from strangers.