What to Teach Children Instead of “someone Else’s Danger”

Once when I was a kid, I was in a food court in a mall and mime sculpted all the kids out of balloons. He blew up a tube of latex, rolled the puppy out of it and handed it to me. I thanked him and ran with pride to show Mom and Dad who were sitting at the next table.

“Watch!” – I said happily.

They were disappointed. “Don’t talk to strangers,” they scolded.

As a shy and sensitive child, I had low anxiety towards strangers: I turned away from ladies in the market who complimented my dress, bank tellers who asked my name, and employees who handed out samples in front of restaurants. I don’t blame my parents for emphasizing the “alien danger” mentality – in the 1980s, television spots on television constantly warned ofcrawling people luring children into cars . But now that I’m a mom, I see the same cautious tendencies in my five-year-old daughter, and while it’s shyness most of the time, I’m worried. I want her to be safe, but I don’t want her to be afraid of people in advance.

In online parenting groups, I often see the same request: “Help! My child starts conversations with all the adults he sees on the playground. How can I tell her about an unfamiliar danger? “(Fear almost always surrounds girls, not boys.) I say no. While I understand the anxiety that fuels unfamiliar danger, there are several problems with this concept.

First, emphasizing the stranger’s danger overlooks a more pressing problem. Abduction of children by strangers is very rare . It is true that 90% of the harm children do is done by people they already know.

“Telling kids not to talk to strangers doesn’t protect kids at the most basic level,” writes early childhood expert Heather Schumaker in The Daily Beast . “Children are most often harmed by friends and family. We would like to see this alarming statistic disappear. It is much more convenient to blame a faceless stranger than to confront domestic violence, incest and other abuses. “

Secondly, it just confuses the kids. Who is the stranger? New first grader? The nurse they just met? Should you be afraid of everyone?

Finally, depriving children of the opportunity to connect with new people prevents them from developing critical, real-life skills in recognizing potentially dangerous situations. And it takes practice.

It’s good to talk to strangers in life. People who talk to strangers – in cafes, in queues at the post office, or while stretching before yoga classes – are more fortunate and feel more connected to those around them. And children who are new to this world can practice a lot in dealing with strangers at first, because almost all of them are strangers. Here’s how to keep your kids safe without mentioning the danger of strangers.

Let them believe this “uh-uh” feeling

You can and should explain to your children that they can meet people who don’t want the best for them. Know that children are naturally good intuition. Ruby’s Studio episode “Safety Show” teaches young children to recognize their instincts and trust them when something seems unsafe, describing this anxiety as a “uhhh” feeling. Remind your children that if they ever feel “oh,” they should tell their parents, teacher, or other trusted adult about it. Even if something seems safe, you should seek the advice of an adult just in case.

Talk about “cunning people”

There is a movement to rebrand “strangers” into “tricky people.” The idea, presented by Safely Ever After , an education company dedicated to the prevention of childhood sexual abuse, is that it’s not how well a child knows a person, but what he says or does that makes him “cunning”. The sly person might tell the child to keep a secret, or ask for help, or do something else that makes him feel uncomfortable.

Have the children practice dealing with strangers in your presence.

This not only helps them develop good social skills, but also gives them the confidence that they understand who they can trust.

At the library, ask them to ask the librarian where they can find books about Egypt. At the restaurant, ask them to order their own food. At the dog park, see if they can find out the name of the dog. If your child is more withdrawn, you can test them after the conversation by asking, “How are you feeling?”

Most strangers are okay! Even very helpful. Children will need to talk to strangers throughout their lives. The sooner they feel comfortable with it, the sooner they can trust themselves and know that something is wrong.

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