In our family we tell our kids that a stranger is anyone you don’t know, and that most strangers are safe, but you can’t tell by looking. We want them to know that while the majority of people are good people, there are still a few very bad people in our world.
Statistically speaking, stranger abduction is rare. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 200,000 children younger than 18 are abducted annually by family members. More than 58,000 are abducted by non-family members. However, only 115 children (on average) are the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping involving someone the child does not know. Regardless of the number of abductions that occur, each is a tragedy. We can offer more skills to our children and raise their awareness.
Role playing scenarios are a reassuring way to empower our kids and work out their questions and concerns in a safe environment. It’s also important to outline “stranger rules” for your family. Here are some to consider:
- No talking to strangers without a parent present. It is a common occurrence for someone in public to say hello to one of my children. My kids usually say “hi” back and I remind them privately that it’s only okay to do that because I am right there with them.
- No going in cars, houses, or leaving anywhere with strangers.
- No going in cars, houses, or leaving anywhere with friends or family without permission.
- No accepting gifts, toys, food, or treats from a stranger. These are the kinds of tricks that abductors use to lure a child closer.
- It is not a child’s job to help a stranger. Adults should ask other adults if they need help. It is the right thing to do to walk away (or run!) if a stranger asks a child for assistance. It is not rude. Safety is more important than manners.
- Get far away from a stranger who is trying to interact, ask for help, or offer gifts. Then find a trusted adult to tell right away.
- If a stranger tries to take you, do whatever it takes to make him/her let go. Do not go with them. Make trouble. Resist. Kick, stomp, scrape, hit, bite. Then YELL! CAP talks about a “safety yell” that is loud, long, and deep from within the gut. Finally, RUN to safety (home, school, a friend’s house).
Tomorrow’s piece will discuss bullying and will conclude the
“Keeping Our Kids Safe and Thriving” series.