Every parent has nightmares about the worst-case scenario. Your child being harmed by a stranger. But realistically a child is more likely to be harmed by someone they know. How do you teach them to stay safe?
Recently in Ontario there has been renewed concern about released and convicted sex offenders. The Toronto police have released a community alert about a convicted sex offender in the neighbourhood. It has moms in Burlingtonon high alert about the safety of their children, and how to ensure their children are safe. “Stranger Danger” is a term I grew up with, and struggled to teach my outgoing and social butterfly daughter. She couldn’t understand when we warned her to stay in our eyesight, she couldn’t understand when we cautioned her about talking to strangers – her response “but what if I meet them and I want them to be my friend?” How were we going to ensure if our daughter was separated from us, she wouldn’t wander off with the first person who offered to be her friend? And then I read Safely Ever After’s checklists and prevention tips , that changed my perspective on how to explain staying safe to my preschooler.
Here are some of the key points:
Replace the word “STRANGER” with “TRICKY PERSON”
A tricky person is:
a grown-up who asks kids for help.Grown-ups never need kids to help them – they ask other grown-ups
a grown-up who asks kids to keep a secret from their parents.
a grown-up who tells kids it’s okay to do something without asking mom/dad first.That’s the same as keeping a secret
a grown-up that you don’t know at all or that you know just a little bit
You may wonder why replace the word stranger? Well, one day your child may need help from a stranger – and they need to learn who safe strangers are. I once read, and I repeat to this day, if you get separated from mommy and daddy – look for a mom with kids. A mom with kids is going to help you, and they are a safe stranger. And there are no places we go with our kids that there aren’t other moms with kids around.
The key is to empower your child, not to make them afraid of strangers. Teach them who is safe and teach them what the safety rules are:
My bathing suit area is private and I am the boss of my body
I NEVERgo anywhere or take anything from someone I don’t know
It’s okay to say NO to a grown-up – especially if they don’t make me feel right or ask me to do something I don’t want to do
It’s okay to freeze and yell for help
I must check first with smart, safe grown-ups for permission
And as mamas, we need to always be sure to supervise our children, keep them in our sight when possible and do our best to teach them the best ways to stay safe when they are not with us. And every moment they are with us – shower them with love – because that’s what being a mama is all about!
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