One of your main jobs as a parent is keeping your kids safe. They don’t yet have the skills to fully interpret everyone and everything they’ll encounter in their lives. They need guidance from their parents to know how to keep themselves safe. Here are some tips on talking to your kids about strangers and other safety matters.
While you want to help give them the tools to stay safe when away from you, you don’t want to scare them. You don’t need to share the “whys” of your concerns about your child’s safety. You can teach him about safety without delving into the horrific stories about kidnap, murder, and rape on the nightly news. He just needs to know what you expect of him.
Before you even begin discussing strangers, it’s a good idea to establish a rule that you must always know where your child is. Or whomever you’ve trusted with his care, like a babysitter, family member, or neighbor must always know where he is. If he wants to go play outside at home, he must ask. If he wants to go look at comic books while you’re looking at cookbooks, he must ask. Even if he’ll be within earshot of you, you can emphasize the importance of always asking before he leaves your sight. Often kids will always want to know where you are so you can use that to help him understand why you want the same from him.
When it comes to strangers, you don’t want to scare your child into losing his outgoing personality but he needs to understand that not all adults are trustworthy. Telling him to never talk to strangers could also create more problems should he ever get separated from you and because for a child, almost everyone is a stranger, including family members and your friends. Establish who is a stranger and who isn’t: anyone introduced to him by you, his other parent, or another trusted adult is no longer a stranger. He’ll know when to feel safe with the people around him. While it could be counterproductive to tell him to never talk to stranger, make sure he knows to never, ever go anywhere with a stranger. A trustworthy adult would never try and take him farther away from you.
You’ll want to practice these teachings with him as soon as you can so he’ll be prepared. Should he ever get separated from you in a public place, he’ll need the help of a stranger so he needs to know where to look. Teach him to first look for a person with a uniform on. Children as young as three should be able to differentiate between normal clothing and a uniform, whether it’s a cop, a security guard, an employee, or even a janitor, a person in uniform most likely works where you are and can help him. You can practice this by taking him to various locations like grocery stores, malls, or parks. Help him find what a person who can help might look like.
If you have a home security system it’s a good idea to teach your child to understand and use it as soon as he’s old enough. You can find security system companies through word of mouth, in the phonebook, or on the Internet. You can visit home security.org or similar sites to find all the information you need on installing a security system. Help your child feel safe at home should he ever be alone using your security system and making sure he can call the police or a neighbor if ever needs to.