Have you ever caught yourself pausing at the idea of 'Stranger Danger'? While the intentions behind teaching children about the dangers of strangers have always been pure, we've recently come to realize there might be a more effective approach in our mission to keep kids safe.
🔹 The Stranger Danger Myth
Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room. By emphasizing the idea that strangers are inherently dangerous, we unintentionally plant seeds of anxiety in our little ones about meeting new people. Life is full of introductions to new friends, coaches, teachers, and more.
We surely don’t want them to be scared at every hello!
And here's a fact to mull over: according to the Children’s Bureau, a whopping 90% of harm done to children comes from individuals they already know.
So, what’s our end game? Our primary goal is to arm our children with knowledge and understanding that empowers them to identify potentially harmful situations.
🔹 From "Stranger Danger" to "Strange Things"
Instead of painting a broad brush of fear over every unfamiliar face, let's teach our young ones to be alert to strange things – unusual or inappropriate behaviors that are cause for concern, whether they come from a person they just met or someone they've known forever.
For instance, let's consider a few "Strange Things" to watch out for:
Big Asks: Should an adult really be asking a child to help find their lost pet?
Odd Gifts: Who's giving out candy or gifts without a clear reason?
Lots of Qs: Why does someone need to know so much about a child's daily routines or private information?
You get the gist. (For a full list of "Strange Things", be sure to join our email list. They're key to understanding the behavioral red flags we should teach our kiddos to recognize.)
🔹 Age-Appropriate Safety Lessons
Now, I hear you - "Alright, this approach makes sense. But how do I tailor these lessons to my child’s age?" Fear not! Here's a brief overview, inspired by Diane Covel's incredible safety chart:
For Ages 3 - 5: Use playful methods to teach them their name, address, and the magic of 911. And always, always clarify who your trusted circle is.
For Ages 5 - 9: With their growing sense of right and wrong, utilize role-playing and concrete examples. Let them play back the rules to ensure understanding.
(Source: healthnews.com’s article “Is Stranger Danger” Still Relevant to Teach Kids?”)
🔹 Our Collective Mission
Parents, guardians, and every adult - our mission is clear. We want a world where our children can walk confidently, equipped with the knowledge to identify strange behaviors, and empowered to protect themselves. We’re not just teaching them how to avoid danger but guiding them in understanding the behaviors that are truly concerning.
So, as you sit down with your little one tonight, or the next time you discuss safety, remember:
It's not about the strangers they meet, but the strange things they should avoid.
Together, let's craft a world where our children are informed, confident, and, above all, safe.
Stay wise and wonderful,