"Stranger Danger" revisited: Concentrate on situations and actions!

Author: Kathy Alexander

Children do not understand the concept of "stranger". When you try to explain to them, it is even difficult to explain. Therefore, situations need to be discussed and acted out for young children to understand what to watch out for! It needs to be communicated, that strangers are not necessarily bad, but unknown. You are not being impolite to be cautious with people you don't know, just being SAFE!

1. The child's age is an important consideration:
* Children aged 3-5: They are curious and may be naturally trusting. They also easily respond to adult attempts to be kind and supportive. Toddlers and preschoolers do not necessarily grasp the long-term consequences of potentially dangerous situations. They live in the now, hence the "mine!" attitudes.
* Children aged 6-9: School age children have more of an ability to determine and understandright from wrong. They are able to remember informationand put it to practical use. They may still get overwhelmed in challenging situations.
* Children aged 10-13: These children are not good judges of their ability to handle bad situations. They may also feel that they should not be scared in difficult situations and can act too relaxed about their attitudes toward risk.

2. Parent's attitudes and approaches can make the difference. Parents must set the right tone for their children. If parents are calm when discussing tough or scary topics, children will be better able to learn and listen about the possible dangers. Parents must monitor their own fear and be careful not to alarm their children unnecessarily.

3. Deliver information in age appropriate ways. Younger children (toddlers and preschoolers) will get more out of role-playing situations and repeated conversations. Older children (school age) can discuss current events or real situations to continue the safety education process. Teaching our children and learning how they interpret the information is a continual process in order to keep them safe from stranger dangers.

4. Be aware of the specifics strangers use to get to children. Teach children not to help strangers look for lost puppies, accept gifts or candy, or get into a car with someone they do not know.

5.Work with the TASK strategy.
Talk reminds me to discuss safety and strangers with my children. I ask them what they think a 'stranger' is, and talk about what they should and should NOT do with strangers.
Ask reminds me to ask my kids what they heard. This helps me figure out what they understood and what we need to work on their understanding of.
Show is the role playing portion. This really helps younger kids learn how to put their knowledge into practice and really shows me, the parent, if they do have a complete understanding of the important safety practices.
Know is the step of making sure your children know who, when where, and how to get help. Do they know their complete names, address, and phone number? Do they know how to dial 911? Do they know who 'friendly' strangers are?
6. Monitor the media. Child abductions and murders are in the news and parents should be aware of what their children are watching or hearing. Help your children separate out fact from fantasy. Changes in sleep, nightmares, and other behaviors may mean additional guidance is necessary, possibly even professional help.

About the Author

Kathy Alexander, Mother of four, Madison (3), Delaney(2), Courtney(2), and Wyatt(4 mos). She and her husband of 11 years live in Texas with their children. Protect Children! Teach Safety! 4 Kidz 4 Safety 'N More offers child safety products including photo identification, DNA & fingerprinting kits, books, games and charts at 4kidz4safetyNmore.com!


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