Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sue Scheff: Street Proofing your Teens Against Strangers

As part 2 continues in educating our children on how to talk to strangers, The Parent Report offers an excellent segment on Street Proofing your Kids. As mentioned in part one, we can tell our children not to talk to strangers, however it is almost inevitable they will. With this, they need to be educated in how to talk to unknown people, that seem completely innocent.

Telling your children to "never talk to strangers" is only one step in keeping our children safe from sexual predators and child abductors.

As children, how many times were we told to "never talk to strangers"? And how many times have we given our own children the same message? We've all heard the horror stories and because of them we're anxious to street proof our children. But Martha McArthur of the safety program, Block Parents, believes that a pat "never talk to strangers" isn't realistic. Instead, McArthur says "it's important to make your children aware how to interact with strangers. 'Never talk to strangers' just isn't practical because we do find children who get lost and are then afraid to ask for help from a stranger."

McArthur says we should teach our children "that there is a circle of safety, as in a safe distance when talking to strangers. For example if a stranger asks them for directions the child should take a step back, answer them and walk away. If they are afraid, they can turn in the opposite direction and walk quickly away."

As well, it's important to explain to our children that strangers look like normal people, not monsters. And the word stranger should be a little more defined in that a stranger is someone you don't know very well or know at all. In other words, a stranger could be someone you've never met, or an acquaintance of the family who knows you by name.

People who prey on children are very good at getting the interest of a child, so many experts suggest role playing with your child how someone might approach them such as offering candy, asking for help, or if they'd like to come and meet their new puppy. Then you have the opportunity to teach your child to say a firm "no" and to walk away.

If you do role play with your child, keep it matter of fact and calm so as not to overly frighten them, because part of street proofing children is not just pointing out dangers, but teaching them confidence. "That way they're more capable of making a good decision in a bad situation", explains retired staff sergeant, John Andrews. "You want to be able to tell your child about some of the hazards in the world. You want to arm them with the information of things that could happen. You don't want to scare your child. You want to ensure that they'll do the right things. "

Andrews adds that if the worst should happen and "someone is attempting to take your child and grabs them, the child should fall to the ground and start kicking and screaming, to bite if necessary, anything it takes. The child wants to make as much noise and create as much diversion as possible so that other people in the area will want to know what is going on."

Finally, McArthur says one of the best things we can instill in our children is trust in their own instincts. "Children have very good instinct. They should trust that feeling in their gut that tells them if something is safe or not. We describe it as that feeling in your tummy that gives you butterflies if something isn't right."

Be an educated parent, you will have safer children.

Did you miss part 1?Go Back. (Teaching your kids to talk to strangers).