I had an incident at the park today where I thought for several minutes (probably about 12 minutes, but it felt like hours!) that my 5-year-old girl had been kidnapped. All the moms on the (very large) playground were helping me call and search for her, and I was freaking out. It turns out that she had run across the soccer field to the entrance by the street (far away from the playground) and was on the other side of some bushes, watching for some friends of ours to show up (she didn't realize they were already on the playground)! Because of the distance, street noise, and airplanes flying overhead, she didn't hear anyone calling her.
Anyway, my heart is still pounding and tears keep welling up. I am so, so grateful that she is okay, and I want to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. This horrible situation made me realize that I've never really talked to my kids (3, 5, and 7) about what to do if a stranger approaches them or tries to grab them. I don't want to scare the kids into thinking that everyone is evil and mean and out to get them, but I do want them to be safe.
Does anyone have any recommendations or resources about gently teaching kids how to be safe around strangers? Thanks in advance.
That must have been terrifying. I thought that this book was fantastic, and felt so much more confident after reading it.
Mama to F (3/09) and S (3/11); and never forgetting my babe gone too soon (4/10).
I don't have that resource for a child but I do have a resource for parents and caregivers:
Gavin DeBecker's book Protecting the Gift
After reading it I felt empowered
The following review seemed to sum up the book well, it seemed very thorough.
I had stated earlier on the post that the book made me feel empowered and it does. I feel that I have the knowledge now of how to recognize danger, what to look for, as well as the support to trust my intuition whether it is loud and jolting or a nagging, dull feeling that just won't go away.
It also angered me of all of the wrong and useless information that I had received growing up.........
The way I go about teaching my kids to be safe is by practiing and quizzing them often of what to do in vrious situation.
First, we as parents have to do our research and realize that the world is a safe place, safer than it has been in decades. If we look at the statistics, the chances of our kids being kidnapped are extremely slim. Most kid dissapearances are either committed by someone in the family or they are runaways.
Then I make sure to meet people in our neighbourhood, retired people , stay-at-home moms, we go to the park often; I want to make sure other people know us (and might keep an eye on my kids, or help them if something happens). What I want my kids to know is that their neighbourhood and the world in general is a safe place and that most strangers are good people.
And thirdly, I want my kids to know they are resourceful. When they are 4 or 5, I make them learn our address and phone number. I tell them whom to ask for help (they will have to rely on strangers at that point). I teach them to ALWAYS tell me where they go - even if it's with someone they know (a lot of kidnapped kids have been lured away by people they know). NEVER go off with a stranger; it's ok to talk to strangers, but don't go with them, even if they offer candy, or want to show them a puppy.
Lastly, I let them practice their independence. When ds turned 7 I let him walk to the bus stop three houses down the road while I was watching from the front yard. He even talked to a stranger! (He said hi to an elderly lady who greeted him).
Here is a website that I like, http://www.freerangekids.com/as-recently-as-1979-a-first-grader-could/ it's not what you asked for, it doesn't offer advice on how to teach kids stranger danger, but it might assuage your worries
I also want to recommend Gavin De Becker's book Protecting the Gift. My son is 10 now, and I am glad that I read it when he was younger. I also felt really empowered and I think I was also able to empower him to trust his instincts. I actually was talking about it with someone this evening. It has also helped me with my own work with with At Risk Homeless Youth and I think the knowledge I took from it has helped keep me safe, in situations that could have turned out very differently.
That's the other thing -- if they're in a situation that makes them uncomfortable and they're not with me, a teacher, or another trusted adult, they are to find a mom with kids to help them. I tell them they do not have to answer people or be polite if they're feeling uncomfortable -- it's okay to just run away without saying anything.
We role-play this stuff, with me offering candy, asking them to help me find my dog, even stuff like pretending to be a friend of theirs showing them a gun (in that situation they are to leave the room immediately, not spending any time talking to their friend about putting it down or anything, and tell the parent or call me).
We also talk about how, sadly, kids are usually kidnapped by someone they know, and so not to go with anyone except me or dad unless they know that's the plan for that day. I've had the school office bring a note to my child in class telling them if someone else will be picking them up. I've also heard of some families having a code word, telling their kids not to go with anyone, even grandma, unless they know the code word.
All that said, I saw the TV piece FisherFamily mentioned, where well-informed kids went with strangers even though they knew not to. And I remember as a kid my family did the "code word" thing and I totally still got in the car when my favorite uncle picked me up from school -- it never even occurred to me to ask if he had the code word because in my mind, that couldn't possibly apply to him! (Nothing bad happened, he really was just picking me up as a treat and he's awesome, but still.) So, I don't know. It's scary.