Teaching children about strangers is important as society gets busier and the world around us gets more dangerous. Here are some tips parents can use.
Whenever you discuss this issue, be clear and crisp. Don't create an atmosphere of fear around the whole discussion. The goal should be to help the child learn who strangers are and take evasive action, not avoid all social contact.
Typically, children have to be about 2 1/2 years old before they can start to understand even the basics. Children younger than that may not be able to understand the concept. They require supervision to be safe. Having them run around and explore under your watchful eyes teaches them valuable life skills. Let them do it.
At 2 1/2, teach children about the concepts of family and friends. Point out to members of the family and keep reinforcing the concept. Periodically, ask them to list out the family members. Also refer to their friends and your friends as friends of yours. Talk about them.
Start at 3, and as children get older, put the following tips to use.
- Teach your children about strangers and that not everyone is good.
- Teach children their address, and location and home phone number and a parent's mobile number.
- Teach children not to accept candy or any food from strangers. As they get older, talk about accepting drugs or other items from strangers.
- Teach children not to get into the vehicle of a stranger.
- Agree on a protocol to pickup your child from school. For example, if you have a vehicle pick up your child, make sure she tells her teacher if her regular driver does not come.
- As they grow older, make sure they know atleast one phone number where a family member is always available.
- Teach your children to keep you aware of where they are or are going, at all times. Make sure they understand that they must tell you before going to a friend's home. In addition, they must call you before they leave a friend's house and return to yours.
- If children are alone at home, teach them to keep the door locked (or use the chain) and never to open it unless its a family member. Even if someone claims its an emergency, make sure children call another family member to come home. Teach children that strangers often claim there is an emergency in order to fool them.
- If children are alone at home, teach them not to mention the fact to anyone on the other side of the door or to anyone on the phone
- Sometimes, household help changes. When they were employed, we as parents may have told children that it is OK for them to talk to the maids. But when the household help leaves, tell your children clearly that the former household help is off limits and should be treated as a stranger unless a family member is next to them.
As children grow older and spend more time on the Internet, online safety also becomes as important. We will cover that topic in another article.