Unfortunately, in Today’s World, We Need to Teach Personal Safety for Kids. Get Resources for Teaching Young Kids About Strangers and Potentially Dangerous People and Situations.
Growing up my family had a board game called Strangers and Dangers.
It was like the game of Life only the choices weren’t “pick up a wife” and “go to college.” The board was a neighborhood map with “short cuts” that looked creepy, and the cards had scenarios like “a friend offers you drugs,” “a stranger tries to give you candy,” or “you help the elderly lady cross the street.” We loved that game!
Now as an adult I have to admit that it’s a bit of a morbid and unusual board game. It could be why I don’t trust people I don’t know, and I’m hyper vigilant in public, but it served as a great background for teaching and discussing strangers, dangers, and other hazardous situations.
I’m not as good at discussing these things with my kids, and unfortunately, our childhood game was too well loved to pass down. However going back to school is a fantastic time to have these discussions with your kids.
How to Talk About Stranger Danger and Personal Safety
Let’s face it these conversations border between the weirdness of giving your kids “the talk” and scaring them into thinking everyone is out to get them. It’s a tricky talk to have. We want our kids to trust people and not become a recluse, but we also want them to develop a healthy sense of fear and understanding regarding the dangers that are around them.
And in today’s world, they will certainly encounter these in some way, shape, or form. Luckily there are some wonderful resources for teaching kids about strangers and potentially dangerous people and situations.
Teach with Books
Reading together, especially from a well-written children’s book, can make the difference between a belly flop conversation and a paradigm shifting conversation. One of my favorites is The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers. We always refer back to this book when strangers or fear of strangers come up. In the book he uses the analogy of the bad apple to teach about why we use caution with people, but that the reality is most people are very good.
Since today’s world has digital dangers as well, Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen A Jenson and Gail Poyner is a great book for helping kids beware of pornography which can lead them to a host of other dangerous situations and people.
I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Kimberly and Zack King is an excellent companion book as well and Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!), By Jennifer Morre-Mallinos would also fall under this category.
Teach with Websites
The website KidSmartz has a great script and role playing game to do as a family to teach about strangers and dangers and many other safety concerns. As they point out most abductions and crimes against kids actually happen with people they already know. Excellent teaching resource right there.
For those of you who remember Officer McGruff, he has some great information for kids and parents at National Crime Prevention Council. His website also covers lots of other important personal safety topics such as bullying, cyber bullying, cell phones, and internet safety to name a few.
Safety tips to teach your family:
How ever you choose to address this topic in your back to school preparations be sure to include these vital safety tips in your family discussion.
- Teach your children who “trusted adults” are: Fireman, police, and those your family has deemed trusted emergency contacts.
- Know your child’s route to and from school and designate “safe” houses in your neighborhood in case they are in danger.
- Know your child’s after school activities and who they are with.
- Know your child’s friends and their parents and have a list of their phone numbers and addresses, have a family rule that if you don’t know them or their name isn’t on the list, they don’t go with them.
- Know what your child is wearing each day and never put your child’s name on the outside of their clothing or backpack.
- Keep a current photo and video of your child handy, along with a copy of your child’s fingerprints. You can print a free Child ID kit or request free ID kits here (shipping and a representative are involved)
- Trust their instincts as well as your own. If your child doesn’t want to be with someone, find out why, and respect it. If you have a bad feeling about a person or situation, share and explain it to your child. Model using and following your instincts even if the “avoided danger” is never revealed.
- Make sure your child knows that adults shouldn’t ask children for help and that people shouldn’t ask children to keep secrets. Unfortunately, it’s not just adults that harm or threaten kids.
- Make sure your children know important contact information (full name, parent’s full name, address, and phone number). Be sure they are old enough to know who and when to share that information with a trusted adult. I had a little gal in a kindergarten class that told me her name, number, address, and that her mom works and invited me over. Certainly a little scary to think about who they could be sharing information.
- Have a family rule that children are never to go anywhere with someone without their parents knowing where and with whom they are going. Even if you know these people very well, or if they are with a stranger, even if they offer candy, claim they have their friend or sibling in the car, or ask for help. Have a written list of who they have the approval to get a ride home from. Exceptions should be specific to person, date, and time.
- Have a secret code word, that you may want to update every 1-6 months (like a computer password). If someone doesn’t know the secret code word, don’t go with them. Let your children know that your trusted emergency contacts will only ever use that password and who those likely people would be.
- Teach your children that even trusted people aren’t allowed to do things that make them feel uncomfortable or are inappropriate and that it’s okay to say “No” to adults.
- Teach your children to shout “No” or “Stop” if someone touches them inappropriately, then to tell their mom or dad, a teacher or other leader. Tell them that it’s okay to be as loud as possible if you are in danger.
- Teach your children what to do if they are lost or in danger. Show them how to locate a pay phone or a public phone and dial 9-1-1 for free. Show them who are trusted adults: firemen, policemen, a store clerk, teacher, etc. and safe public places to find help.
- Teach your children situational awareness in regards to whether they would be alone, unseen, unheard, or difficult to see or hear and to avoid those types of situations.
I hope you have an uplifting conversation with your kiddos that will positively impact them for life. These principles are the key to saving minds, hearts, and lives. Happy back to school days folks, stay safe!