We love our community, because we feel safe, but I learned last week a van drove around our block trying to lure little kids with strangers. Fortunately, the kids ran. Although we keep our kids in arms' reach to be safe, it's my worse nightmare that they run too fast and too far. Parents should practice stranger safety with these five essentials that pediatricians recommend beginning at about age three.
- Sign-up for your community crime report and know your neighbors.
- Identify police officers for your kids who can help.
- Attend community meetings.
- Talk to kids about stranger dangers.
- Role play with kids what to do if there is a stranger encounter and reinforce how you will always love them. This ("run if a stranger offers you candy or ice cream") has not worked with our toddler, which reinforces the fact that he obviously always needs to be in arm's reach. We'll keep trying.
Perhaps number 5 is hard for our toddler to digest since we always greet strangers with a smile and "hello" when we are together, but not everyone is safe.
I wanted more guidance with warm weather and extra time outside. Kids Health's tips reinforce common sense you would already do to be safe.
Tell your child that if a stranger ever approaches and offers a ride or treats (like candy or toys) or asks for help with a task (like helping find a lost dog), your child should step away, firmly yell "No!" and leave the area immediately. Your child should tell you or another trusted adult (like a teacher or childcare worker) what happened. The same goes if anyone — whether a stranger, family member, or friend — asks your child to keep a secret, tries to touch your child's private area, or asks your child to touch theirs.
Most kids are likely to be wary of strangers who are mean-looking or appear frightening in some way. But the truth is, most child molesters and abductors are regular-looking people, and many go out of their way to look friendly, safe, and appealing to children. So, instead of judging a person by appearance, teach kids to judge people by their actions.
Perhaps just as important, encourage kids to trust their own instincts. Teach them that if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or if they feel like something's just not right — even if they can't explain why — they need to walk away immediately.
So, what happens if your kids are alone and need to approach a stranger for help? First, they should try to find a person in uniform, like a police officer, security guard, or store employee. If there are no uniformed people, grandparents, women, and people with children may be able to help. And again, remind them about instincts: If they don't have a good feeling about a certain person, they should approach someone else.
This week our toddler's nurturing day camp naturally had name tags for their first day. Our oldest wanted to keep it on at the park, but I took it and told him someone could pretend they know us and do something bad.
What tips help you and yours stay safe?