Advising your Child Not to Talk to Strangers
“Don’t talk to strangers” is a statement we have all grown up with. Our parents have always been particular about this, in order to avoid any mishaps from happening. Who exactly is a stranger and why should one not talk to them?
A stranger is basically someone who is not a part of your family; there are no blood ties with that person, or any sort of relationship. The statement however, is not intended to give our children the impression that every stranger they interact with is perverse; some maybe pleasant people, but not everyone. Nor does it imply that they should be wary of only strangers; because sometimes these perverse perpetrators are those who are closest to your family.
As parents, it is our duty to keep a check on who our children communicate and socialize with. And as parents, we are concerned with protecting our child from abuse and harm —psychological, emotional, and physical.
Hence, the “don’t talk to strangers” also means “don’t let strangers touch you” and applies to the situation where someone, be it a family member, or a friend or a stranger tries touching your child in some private areas, or asks him/her to do so with them. It is good to talk to your child openly about such things, and have a conversation time and again to keep a check on them.
It is also important to encourage your little ones to trust their instinct. If they are not comfortable around someone, or if they feel something is not right, they should come to you immediately and explain the entire situation to you.
Children normally have a perception in their minds that only “evil looking” people are strangers, and that a good looking person is friendly. One should keep in mind that most of these child molesters and kidnappers are those people who seem to be the least expected ones; since they appear to be friendlier with children. Advise your child to judge a person by their actions, and not by their appearance.
Stranger Danger — How should you go about it?
You can tell your child to interact with strangers when you are around, so that you can keep an eye on them. However, in your absence, you should advise your child not to communicate with any stranger. If a stranger ever approaches your child and offers something like a candy, or say that they are taking them to you, tell your child to step away and yell “NO”.
Have a rapport such that your child is comfortable in sharing everything with you, so that you can take the required safety measures accordingly. If, for example, there is a situation in your community, where a mishap related to a stranger has occurred, it’s best to speak frankly with your children. Talk to them about it and discuss certain safety rules with them. This way they shall know how to handle a situation if they ever face one. Also, always make sure there’s an adult around the children, a trusted adult, so that the situation can be dealt with if it becomes worse.
Strangers also use other ways to entrap children. They come up with situations where the child becomes confused and doesn’t understand what to do.
- Emergency — Sometimes a stranger uses the tactic of telling the child that there is a certain emergency and that he/she should come with them. Using an emergency situation as bait is a common phenomenon. It is your duty to educate you child that you would not send a stranger in such a situation, and that only the father or mother shall do so.
- Gifts/Sweets — Every child has a weak spot for candies and gifts. If a stranger approaches them and offers them something, tell them to politely decline it and if someone forces them, then tell them to yell and run to a nearby trusted adult, like a teacher. Same way, advise them not to get into a car with a stranger, even if they offer a ride to your home.
- Seeking Assistance — Another way strangers use to lure a child is by asking them for some sort of assistance. Strangers use tactics like “can you help me find a store”, or “do you want to play with my dog”. Instruct your child to run to a safe place in such a scenario, and tell a known adult about the stranger. Teach them not to seek help from strangers in the in the first place either.
- Compliments — Children often get excited when a stranger comes to them and compliments them for their good looks. You should train them that they are not supposed to let anyone take their pictures without their parents’ consent. Flattery is also used as a way to entrap children.
From what age should you talk to them?
Start talking to them from a young age; and don’t leave them alone so that they feel a sense of security around you. Try explaining things to them in their language. It will be easier for them to understand it. As toddlers, always be physically present around them so that they know you will always be there.
As children, it is perfectly fine for them to be 100% dependent on you, so do not think that by being with them your making them less confident. Educate them about strangers and the various risk factors from a young age — by reading them some children’s books, or showing animated stories.
As parents, you can always give them certain tips to remember, for when you are not around them and if they are lost:
- Tell them to stay put until you come back to them.
- If lost in a crowd, tell them to stand where they last saw you.
- Look for a person in a uniform, preferably a policeman, and ask him for assistance.
- Do not go to a public restroom (bathroom) without you, or wander away without your permission.
- If there is a cash register nearby, tell them to stand near it and tell the cashier to make an announcement.
- Most of all put a slip with your name and contact number in their pockets.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to look after your little ones and keep them safe from all sorts of danger.