While we know the importance of having our kids play outside in the summer, it can also cause a bit of anxiety.
Instead of fretting, we can be proactive and educate our children about stranger safety and give them the tools to cope. Here are some tips and advice on how to teach our children about stranger safety without making them afraid of the world.
Preschoolers don’t have a concrete understanding of the world to fully comprehend safety for kids, but that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook as parents. The number one thing we can do to keep our children safe is to always, always supervise them.
We can preach and preach, but it may not work with kids this young, so keeping a constant eye on children is key. Preschool age children can understand us when we tell them to hold our hand and stay close by while we’re out in public, so we can lay the groundwork for future stranger safety lectures with these lessons.
This is also a great age for us to teach our children basic kids safety. For example, every time we cross the street together, we can remind them to hold our hand and look both ways. We can ask them to look to see if any cars (or bikes, or buses) are coming. Confirm that it’s clear to cross, or point out why it’s not and wait until it is, before crossing together.
When a child starts elementary school, they are old enough to memorize their full name, address and phone number with zip code. Older children should also memorize Mom’s and Dad’s mobile or work phone numbers. We can make it fun by singing our address to the tune of the “ABCs” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” — add your own silly lyrics to make it more memorable. We can write each number of our cell phone number onto a square of paper and have our kids put the squares in the correct order to help our child memorize them. We can give pop quizzes of this information to keep it fresh and ask them to recite it before they get dessert or while they’re in the bath.
We can teach our children to be mindful of adults and explain to them that they are allowed to say “no” to grown-ups who frighten them or make them uncomfortable. You’ve probably taught your child to keep his hands and feet to himself, but the exception to this rule is if a stranger is trying to take him or do something mean to them.
If our child gets lost or needs help when we’re not there, we should tell them to find a trustworthy adult and teach our children that police officers are safe strangers, so children feel comfortable approaching one if they need to. If they can’t find a uniformed officer, we should tell them to “go to safety” by asking a mother with children or a person in a store uniform with a name tag for help. Next time we’re out, we should point out strangers (who are out of earshot) and ask our children if that person is someone he should consider a safe stranger. Explain why that person may not be a good option if they answer incorrectly.
It’s also helpful to role-play possible emergencies with our kids. We can demonstrate how to dial 911 so that they can get help if they need it, and let them practice pushing the numbers on a toy phone or a real phone that’s been unplugged. We should also come up with a family safety word to use in case anyone other than mom or dad needs to pick them up from school. We want to let them pick a word or phrase that is meaningful to them, and tell them that anyone who picks them up will know that special word.
Talking about stranger safety with our children can be difficult at first, but by introducing these ideas with fun activities and role-playing scenarios, it can be a little more enjoyable. We can practice these tips with our children often, so we can be confident that they’ll know how to handle any situation.