5 'Stranger Danger' Tips That Makes The World Safer For Your Child
It is every parents nightmare, and one which doesn't even bear thinking about. Except it does.
Educating your child about how to react when they feel uncomfortable around another adult is a vital lesson. The key is getting the balance right between teaching them without scaring them. We should assess these risks realistically and put these fears in context. They are very rare events, particularly when compared with other dangers. But it costs nothing to be aware of the dangers and website Anxious Toddlers has come up with a set of tips for parents to instil in their children.
1. No visible personalised items
We all have to label our children things for school but where possible, try not to make them visible to the general public. Calling a child by their name instantly gives them a sense of trust and disarms them.
2. Have a family code word
Some families use an everyday word like 'pizza' or 'silver' to ring alarm bells with their child. If they are in a friends house on a playdate and they feel uncomfortable, they can call you to ask you is there going to be pizza for dinner, or are you collecting them in the silver car. It is their way of alerting you to danger without creating hysteria. Another method of using the word is if someone says the child's parents TOLD them to collect them. The child can ask them for the family code word.
3. No body secrets
We started this concept from a very early age in our house-hold. We actually say no secrets at all. There is no reason your four or five year old should have secrets at this stage anyway.
4. Teach them to shout 'I don't know you'
We have all been there when our child has a tantrum and we have to carry them off kicking and shouting. Your child being taken would look no different to the average passerby. Teach your child to shout 'you are not my daddy' or 'I don't know you' as this will instantly alert others to think twice about the situation they are seeing. Be careful though, my 4 year old shouts 'help!' whenever I am trying to catch him in a supermarket or try to bundle him into our own car!
5. Find a mum with kids
There are ALWAYS plenty of mums with kids in public places and they are seen as the safest bet for your child if they are afraid or find themselves in a difficult situation. Same goes for a younger child who gets lost. It is assumed that mothers with children are a safe haven and will do their best to protect your child in the interim.
Tulsa, Irelands child protection agency, has this advice for parents:
"While most children have a natural shyness from strangers, some children are more impulsive and can have little natural fear of danger, especially when they are younger. As a result, these children can be more likely to “wander off” or “go off with anyone” and could therefore be at more risk. As a result these children need much more parental supervision, as well as frequent warnings of danger and constant reminders of keeping safe. Luckily, many of these impulsive traits can fade as they get older and they can take on parents’ warnings. On the other hand, it is important to adopt a different approach with a child who is more naturally nervous or anxious. Spending too much time reminding of them of danger may overwhelm them with anxiety and may be unnecessary as their natural fears would mean they are going to stay away from strangers anyway. In this situation, it may be more effective to talk through the issues in a more balanced way."
Now in most Irish schools there is the Stay Safe programme which teaches children in an age-appropriate way about protecting themselves from bullying child abuse and victimisation – the key message being “saying no and telling someone”.
Do you have any good tips for keeping your child safe? We would love to hear your suggestions!