How to Talk to Kids about Stranger Danger
Parents Need to Discuss Stranger Danger When Children are Young
Teaching Stranger Danger to Children
Most parents are very protective of their children, striving to keep them safe from dangerous toys and risky sports. However, many neglect to keep their children safe from a danger that is all too real … adults who may want to harm them.
As soon as children are old enough to attend pre-school or have frequent play dates in the homes of their friends, you should begin to have discussions with them about appropriate and inappropriate touching. Some psychologists suggest that you should have the first discussion of this topic sometime between the ages of three and five. After the initial conversation, you should repeat it once or twice a year, especially when your children begin spending more and more time with other adults.
"The Parrot Trap" was Written to Help Parents Start the Conversation
This short story is much less threatening and scary than some of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. It puts children in a modern day setting where a pretty woman becomes overly friendly and tries to snatch one of them. It is designed to overcome some of the stereotypes many people have about "scary old bad men." It also has discussion questions at the back to make it easier for the parents to start a conversation with their children.
Tools to Help Teach Your Children about Strangers
For generations, many parents used the Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a way to bring up the subject of Stranger Danger. The stories of “Little Red Riding Hood” in which a little girl spoke with a strange wolf in the forest or “Hansel and Gretel” in which children ate candy at a stranger’s house have long been used as terrifying tales to frighten children into good behavior.
However, today we realize that stories do not have to have violent endings or horrible creatures like wolves and witches in order to give children the information they need. Gentle stories, such as the short book described above, “The Parrot Trap: A Children’s Story,” can be very helpful. It is available in both Kindle and paperback editions.
This book, and other ones like it, have been written in order to teach children about stranger danger without traumatizing them. At the back of this short book, there are notes for parents, including discussion questions and suggestions to help parents talk about Stranger Danger with their young children in an age appropriate way.
Although the children in this story eventually come to realize that they are in danger, nothing bad actually happens to them. No big bad wolf eats them; no witch throws them in an oven; no woodcutter threatens to cut out their heart. (What where they thinking when they wrote those stories, anyway?)
The milder tone of this book is intentional, because the goal is to discuss the topic without terrifying your kids. Parents can talk about what the children in this story did right and what they could have done better. This story also had the advantage that you do not have to tell them about the horrible things that could have happened to the children. Parents can simply say that the woman who tries to kidnap one of the children in the story may have just wanted to take him home to be her little boy. This is far kinder than "Hansel and Gretel" where the witch plans to eat them!
Another intentional aspect of this story is that the "stranger" who tried to abduct the little boy is not some scary man in a trench coat ... which is what many children imagine when they think of a stranger. Instead, the potential abductor is an attractive, young, friendly woman. Children need to learn to be cautious whenever they talk to a stranger, no matter what that person looks like.
Whatever stories you choose to share with your child, they can be a useful tool in talking to your child about stranger danger. The important thing parents need to know is that they can discuss these topics with their children in a thoughtful way that will help protect their children and empower them, without terrifying them.
What to Say to Keep Kids Safe
When you discuss Stranger Danger with your children, what should you say to them? Here are some suggestions to get you started:
* Tell your children that strangers are not usually scary looking people. In fact, people who want to hurt them can be people that seem nice most of the time.
* Let them know that no one has the right to touch them anywhere that would normally be covered by a swimsuit, except for their parents and doctor. If someone else does touch them, you want them to tell you.
* Tell your children that if they ever feel afraid or threatened by someone they should run away, scream, say no, and tell you about the situation as soon as possible. Assure them that they will not get in trouble, even if it turns out the person was not really trying to hurt them. Better safe than sorry!
* Let them know how much you love them and you want to hear about the scary things that happen so you can talk about them together. They won’t get in trouble for being honest with you.
As always, reassure your children that because you love them you want to keep them safe. This will help them feel secure and loved, no matter what happens.
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