We are raising our kids in an era of paranoia. Even though I consider my own parents as cautious and prudent, I am not sure I would be able to let my kids to do the things that I was able to do leisurely when I was growing up. (see parenting manual, chapter on “you’ll understand when you have kids”) At least, you could trust a small circle of friends and acquaintances then. Now we seem to lose all of our trust in everyone. Therefore, the meaning of “stranger” has evolved to a bigger and scarier definition. In this type of environment, it becomes very complicated to prepare our children for emergency situations.
I believe, it’s important to start introducing some concepts as early as possible. Especially, when children start going to school and spending time away from parents. These are the things that you think you hope you will never use, but need to teach. .
The main resource I use to introduce concepts or life lessons to my kids is books. “The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers“ is one of the books I read to my kids. In this book, very extrovert sister bear wants to talk to every stranger she sees. Parent bears explain her the concept of “Stranger” and why she should not talk to everyone.
The second resource I used to teach about strangers is a DVD called The Safe Side – Stranger Safety. It was produced by the creator of Baby Einstein series and the host of America’s Most Wanted, co-founder of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Both the book and the DVD, strangers are depicted as the well-dressed, well-spoken, kind looking people we see out on the street every day and not as scary looking people as kids would imagine when we tell them “stranger”. In addition, in The Safe Side DVD, The Safeside Chick cautions that not all people we know are “Safeside adults”.
We watched the DVD together and read the book. I don’t think one time is enough though. I plan to have them watch this occasionally. What I like about the video is explains concepts in various different scenarios so that kids can relate and use if needed. It is also actionable. Kids learn what to do in case of emergency situations involving strangers.
When we are in the car or at home when the conversation comes up, we reiterate to our children who their safeside adults are. We remind them that only these safeside adults would pick them up and drop them off.
Safe adults who would drop them off and pick them up. They would be notified in advance if anyone else other than these safe adults would pick them up. We also determined a “password” (which they chose) to use if a different person would pick them up. So if a person approaches them offering to take them somewhere they would ask this password to validate.
People other than their safeside adults should be considered as strangers.
They shouldn’t be talking to strangers or going away with them when they are not with a safeside adults
They should not be accepting any food from strangers without first asking us.
If a strangers approaches them to take them away or to convince them to come along with them, they should yell “stranger” and run away.
One thing to remember is that you cannot lecture kids and expect them to remember what to do in case needed. Drill is essential. This is the main reason why I liked the DVD so much. It doesn’t only tell what a stranger is but explains different kind of situations and instructs kids what to do in those situations.
A funny note, I came around on this subject is not to teach our kids to yell “this is not my mom or my dad” when a stranger approaches but use “stranger” instead. Apparently, kids can use “this is not my mommy” against their real parents when they get upset. I’m guessing, they would figure out they can yell “Stranger” if they are mischevious enough to do something against their own parents.
Our children are 6 and 4 years-old now. We periodically read this book and watch the DVD. They are still within an arms reach. When they start going out by themselves or with their friends, the rules will change again.
What do you do to teach your kids about stranger safety and emergency situations? Please write the resources you find useful or tips in the comments.