The world today has changed and sadly it is not always for the better. Parents raising kids today are faced with risks that were virtually unheard of a century or two ago. It is important that parents are aware of these dangers and teach their children how they can protect themselves from such risks.
In particular, dealing with strangers is a life lesson each parent should start to teach their child from early on. Unlike times past when raising children was almost a community affair, the notion of the innocent, caring stranger next door or down the street has unfortunately gone out of the window.
You must find ways of training your children to protect themselves but without instilling irrational paranoia in them. After all, the vast majority of strangers your kids will encounter will be well meaning people. You need only train them on how to protect themselves from the small proportion that will have ill intent. Focus on the red flags.
For instance, if they are walking next to the road and someone driving past smile and waves at them but continues driving away, your child may not need to be overly concerned by that. However, if the person stops the car and beckons to them to approach the car, that is not acceptable and they should start to walk in the opposite direction from that which the car is facing.
You must teach your kids that reacting in fear can sometimes play into a child predator’s hands. A panic reaction that is not informed by careful forethought may cause them to run towards the stranger as opposed to away from them.
Kids should not reveal their names to someone they do not know especially when they meet the person outside the safe confines of the home or school. They should never let a stranger know where they live or where they go to school.
Whenever you go out shopping, to the park or any other public place that is likely to have significant crowds, your kids should know that they must stay within visual range. And in the event that they do get separated and they cannot find you, they should know where to go and wait/report e.g. the information desk. They should not disclose they cannot find you to just anyone around them.
At the earliest age possible, kids should know their full names as well as those of their parents. Preferably, their knowledge of names should go hand in hand with their knowledge of your home address and telephone contact or even where you work. If this information is too much, you could write it down and ensure it is always hidden somewhere in the child’s clothes that only they know.
Gifts from strangers are another no-no. If someone they do not know offers them sweets or toys, they should decline the offer and walk away immediately.
Overall, teaching your child how to deal with strangers is a continuous exercise to cater emerging risks.