Don’t talk to strangers.
This is what we all tell our children. And we should. But we often leave it at that and offer little else by way of explanation. “What else is there to say?” you may ask. On the surface, it seems like enough. But when you really think about it, it gets tricky. For example, which of the following people would you designate as a “stranger”?
- A worker you chit chat with in the grocery store each week.
- Someone from church you see weekly but don’t talk to.
- A policeman or other safety personnel.
- Your sister’s new boyfriend.
Technically, these are all strangers. Familiarity does not elevate someone from the status of stranger. We need to make sure that our kids know this fact. We can’t make assumptions when it comes to teaching our kids about strangers. We need to be proactive.
Here are some snippets of a sample conversation you can have with your child to help him understand this concept of stranger danger:
- “Generally speaking, a stranger is someone you or I don’t know.”
- “Anyone I choose to leave you with is not a stranger – you may not know them, but I do and I trust them.” This includes swim instructors, piano teachers, etc.
- “You CAN talk to strangers – as long as Mommy or Daddy are right next to you and can hear what you are saying. This means that if you are in the checkout line and someone asks you, ‘How old are you?’ you may answer them, because Mommy is right there with you.”
- “You CANNOT talk to strangers if Mommy or Daddy are not within ear shot. Let’s say we are at a playground and a stranger starts talking to you and Mommy is on the other side of the play scape. If that happens, you come right over to me. You can answer his or her questions when you are right beside me unless I tell you not to.”
- “No one will ever pick you up from somewhere without me telling you about it first – even if it is someone you know. When in doubt, call me.”
We need not make our children fearful or paranoid. But we do need to teach them to be discerning. We can start by teaching them the importance of obedience – particularly as it relates to the instruction and guidelines listed above.
If you are looking for information on how to protect your child from sexual abuse, I suggest you read this article. We have to do all we can to protect our children in our fallen world.