I have not done it yet. I don't want to do it. I probably should? What age?
Ugh... I just don't want to introduce that kind of fear and suspicion of the many many perfectly NICE people we do not know into my children's world.
I also have not done the "good touch, bad touch" talk. So, I will be watching this thread closely.
I read a good article about it recently. Here are some tips from this website: http://safelyeverafter.com/index.html
Sorry, they're all in caps.
1. REMIND YOUR CHILDREN: SAFE GROWNUPS DON’T ASK KIDS FOR HELP.
2. NEVER LEAVE YOUNG CHILDREN UNSUPERVISED… NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE.
3. REPLACE THE WORD “STRANGER” WITH “TRICKY PERSON”:
IT’S NOT WHAT SOMEONE LOOKS LIKE, IT’S WHAT THEY SAY OR WANT TO DO WITH A CHILD THAT MAKES THEM UNSAFE OR “TRICKY”.
4. A TRICKY PERSON CAN BE SOMEONE YOU KNOW WELL, DON’T KNOW AT ALL, OR KNOW JUST A LITTLE BIT… LIKE YOUR MAIL CARRIER OR THE ICE CREAM MAN. ANYONE WHO TRIES TO GET A CHILD TO BREAK THEIR SAFETY RULES OR HURT THEIR BODY IS NOT OKAY.
5. LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD. IF THEY DON’T WANT TO BE AROUND A PARTICULAR PERSON, SUCH AS A BABYSITTER, RELATIVE, OR FAMILY FRIEND, DON’T FORCE THEM. THEY MAY BE GETTING A “RED FLAG” SIGNAL THAT YOU ARE UNAWARE OF.
6. PRACTICE PERSONAL SAFETY STRATEGIES WITH YOUR KIDS: WHAT WOULD THEY DO IF THEY WERE LOST IN A STORE? WHAT WOULD THEY SAY IF SOMEONE ASKED THEM FOR DIRECTIONS OR ASSISTANCE?
7. DO NOT WRITE YOUR CHILD’S NAME ON THE OUTSIDE OF ANY PERSONAL BELONGINGS SUCH AS A BACKPACK OR JACKET.
8. OLDER CHILDREN SHOULD ALWAYS USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM WHENEVER AND WHEREVER POSSIBLE.
9. “THE UH-OH FEELING”: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS AND LET YOUR CHILD KNOW IT’S OKAY FOR THEM TO TRUST THEIRS.
10. ESTABLISH A STRAIGHTFORWARD FAMILY RULE:
NO SECRETS ALLOWED, ESPECIALLY IF IT INVOLVES ANOTHER ADULT.
11. LET CHILDREN DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES HOW THEY WANT TO EXPRESS AFFECTION. DO NOT FORCE THEM TO HUG OR KISS ANOTHER PERSON.
12. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR KIDS. CHILDREN WHO ARE STARVED FOR ATTENTION CAN BE ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE TO A PREDATOR’S TRICKS.
13. VOLUNTEER AT YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL OR OTHER ACTIVITIES. KNOW WHO THE PEOPLE ARE WHO ARE INTERACTING WITH YOUR CHILDREN.
14. DEVELOP STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS WITH YOUR CHILD SO THAT THEY WILL FEEL SAFE COMING TO YOU IF SOMETHING IS BOTHERING THEM.
15. TEACH SAFETY CONCEPTS IN A LOVING, EASY-GOING MANNER. SCARE TACTICS CAN MAKE A CHILD FEARFUL AND ARE NOT NECESSARY.
Emaye - I haven't started with "bad touch, good touch" yet either. I don't know what age to start these talks. DS is 4 and very outgoing so I worry.
Marsupial-Mom - Thanks for the link and the tips. I see they have age appropriate seminars and the earliest is 5. I wonder if that's when I should start this with him?
Since the vast vast vast majority of crimes against children are committed by people known to the child, not strangers, teaching a child about stranger danger seems very silly to me. In fact, in my own childhood, I ran to perfect strangers for help (and received it).
I think its important to teach about good touch/bad touch, paying attention to when things don't feel right, what to do when you're lost, etc for any interaction with another person, not singling out strangers. But the truth is that if an adult wants to coerce or molest or abduct a child, the child doesn't really stand a chance and there isn't a whole lot you can teach them ahead of time to prepare them. The child who is used to having his autonomy respected, who isn't expected to blindly obey the adults in his life, whose permission is always sought before being asked for a hug or being kissed, for whom tickling or touching immediately stops when he makes the slightest protest is a child who is in the best position to identify an adult that does not have his best interests in mind and to notice and respond to those creepy feelings such behavior elicits.
Love what BellinghamCrunchie wrote about kids who are used to having their autonomy respected. That's totally the key if you ask me.
Please read Gavin de Becker's "Protecting the Gift." It makes it clear what parts of "stranger danger" teaching are actually dangerous. It's very important not to create a pervasive fearfulness of strangers, because it dilutes out that primal instinctive fear that should be a warning. It's also important that your child be comfortable approaching strangers for help, and practice it. A child who is alone and afraid (because he wandered off, or because mom fainted in the bathroom, or because he got confused about his ride home) is a predator's favourite target. A child who assertively seeks help from a safe adult (cashier, mom-with-child, NOT a security guard!) is not vulnerable for long.
We have done almost no "stranger danger" teaching. The world is basically a good and kind place. My kids have grown up with a lot of freedom, but also a lot of support in identifying and dealing effectively with situations that they are not comfortable in.
I would urge you think (and research) very carefully before teaching your child not to talk to or accept help from "strangers."
Oh, and safe grown-ups, even strangers, do ask kids for help where I live. My kids have been asked directions. They've been asked to help read fine print. To open packs of gum for seniors with failing eyesight. To keep an eye on a bike when someone goes into a variety store. That sort of thing. Considerably more help is asked of them by adults they know and trust. I'm glad that my kids are seen as helpful, useful citizens -- and I'm glad that they respond charitably, rather than with fear and refusal, when asked.
Edited: to correct the name of de Becker's book.
THIS. This is what has stopped me from having that talk with my children! It just seems like such an overkill. I think I am going to have to find a gentle way ....
I'm so glad for this thoughtful conversation about protecting ourselves.
Like Miranda, I do believe in the goodness and kindness of most people, and I am trying to help foster my kids' discernment without raising their sense of alarm, which I think would ultimately cause more harm, both to them and to the community. We live on two continents now, and make an annual visit to a third, so my kids are spending a lot of time in cultures where people interact differently. In North Africa, it is the most normal thing for total strangers to kiss children on the street, take them to the nearest corner store and buy them candy, etc. On the other hand, in a place like UAE, a human trafficking hub, I would never encourage them to interact with people the same way they could in Africa. In addition to the fact of trafficking, it is a far more anonymous kind of place, where most people are transient, and working-age men far outnumber women and children. Then, of course, we have North America, where we live in a metro that still has close ties to its rural past, and the interactions Miranda describes are commonplace.
It's crucial, I think, in order to nurture a safe community, to teach our kids to interact with the people they see, but like others have said, to understand and demand personal autonomy and respect for boundaries. I know enough situations where older kids, not adults, are perpetrating acts of violence (sexual and not) on children, so it's not helpful to focus solely on adults.
We've had to have the tricky talks about personal boundaries. I didn't start with "touch," but talked about doing things, being asked or told to do things, and that feeling when something is not right. That I am always ready to be called in those cases, and specifically WHO safe adults are in various houses, and what the plan is when things look like they might cross personal boundaries.
I am always a little afraid of erring on the side of not enough caution, but I don't want my kids living in constant fear, especially in our current living situation.
My kid has more problems with bullies than with strangers... and bad bullying, not just the verbal/teasing kind. I'm having to find a way to teach him about bad things when I really feel like it SHOULDN'T be necessary. But to keep from having to have those talks, I literally can't let him wander off out of my site. Ever. And I don't want THAT for him, either.
The moms in this community are awesome so I'm sure you've gotten great suggestions, even though I haven't read any of the responses yet .
However, I did want to share this web site with all those who are interested because I like the way in which they tackle the subject. There are printable books, coloring pages and they cover other important safety topics.
I had a friend pass this on to me recently after we had this same discussion- based on teaching about "tricky people instead of stranger danger"
eta- it's the Safely Ever After stuff