How to Teach your Children About Safety

Once you have kids, the world can seem like a frightening place. It’s easy to think of all the bad things that could happen to your vulnerable children, you want to protect them. At the same time, you don’t want your children to be fearful people, but rather friendly and openhearted. How do you teach your children to protect themselves from dangerous people without robbing them of innocent, joyous interactions with people in the world around them?

  • Be aware that “stranger danger” is an oversimplified concept. Most child abduction and sexual abuse cases are committed by people who are not strangers to the children. Try teaching your children about suspicious behaviors, and consider using the term “tricky people” instead of “strangers”. Explain that while most people are good, some people try to trick children into breaking safety rules.
  • Talk about safe strangers. Teachers, firefighters, and librarians are all examples of strangers that kids can go to for help. Teach your kids to seek help in a public place if something happens, and point out safe places to ask for help, like local stores and restaurants, or friends’ houses.
  • Institute clear rules instead of overreaching guidelines. “Never talk to strangers” is not great advice, because you want your child to reply to the well-meaning grandmother in the grocery store or the librarian trying to help find a book. Try coming up with specific rules instead, like these examples:
    • Don’t get in a car with anyone you don’t know.
    • Don’t accept candy or food from strangers.
    • Don’t go into anyone’s house without permission from a parent.
    • Don’t listen to someone who wants you to disobey your parents.
    • Don’t keep secrets from your mom and dad.
    • Don’t do anything that makes you feel bad or uncomfortable.
    • Get a trusted adult if someone you don’t know asks you for help.
  • Teach your kids to trust their instincts. If something makes a child feel uncomfortable, he or she needs to know that it’s ok to say no. Teach the concept of consent, and role-play scenarios in which your children have to stand up for themselves.
  • Encourage your kids to be assertive. Teaching kids “No, Go, Yell, Tell” is a good way to help them remember what to do in a dangerous situation. They should say no, run away, yell loudly, and tell a trusted adult. Practice this at home, so your child is ready in the event of an emergency.

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