October 8, 2010

Teaching our Children About "Stranger Danger"

Posted by Kristi at 6:29 PM
As with anything we teach our children, it is important to lay ground work early. We are all dreading the inevitable challenges that come as our children get older. If we take baby steps toward each one, our children will be prepared when they get there.

This week's theme at the day care was "Stranger Danger." As a mother, I feel like this is one of those topics that keep us up at night. The lingering questions of, "How will I teach it so they understand?" And, "Will they remember when I'm not around?" Remembering to make just a baby step here will help us, as parents, get through it; and our children will know what they need to know.

The number one rule is, as always, "Don't talk to Strangers." I told the children the story of Little Red Riding Hood all week. We used various media including, online stories, puppet shows, books, role play, and just talking about the story throughout the week.  This story is a perfect example of the importance of knowing about stranger danger.

As I'm sure you remember, Little Red Riding Hood was walking through the woods, when a stranger (the Big Bad Wolf) approached her.  Little Red Riding Hood did not remember the rule about no talking to strangers, and told the Big Bad Wolf where she was going.  Of course the sly, Big Bad Wolf took a shortcut to Grandma's house, and well, you know the rest.

To all of you parents out there, I want you to know that setting the ground work is that easy.  Tell a story, make it fun, and repeat, repeat, repeat!  For those of you who are using sign language with your children, this is a great opportunity to introduce the signs for "Danger," "Stop" and other safety concepts your family uses.  These are great because it allows you to communicate safety with your children even when they are out of ear shot.

With Halloween approaching, no time can be better for talking to your children.  There are many opportunities throughout our day to take advantage of:

1)  On trips to the store or other crowded places take the time in the car, before going in, to remind your children that there will be strangers in there.  Remind them what the number one rule is about strangers; if they can, get them to say it with you.  "DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS"  Being consistent about doing this is key to helping them remember. 
**Here's a little tip though: we're not trying to scare our children out of being sociable.  Remind them that if they want to talk to someone they don't know, that they must ask you if it's okay first.

2)  Going to visit family and friends is a safe thing to do.  Playing a game of "Who's a Stranger" on the way is a great way to engage your children.  Simply use the names of the people you are going to visit and ask if they are strangers (ie. Is Grandma a stranger? Is Aunt Vikki a stranger?).  You can also throw in some actual strangers (like the man walking down the street), to keep them thinking about it.

3)  When approaching houses for Trick-or-Treating, remind your children that while these are strangers, YOU are there and it is okay to say "trick-or-treat."  This will help reinforce their trust in you as the one who is there to protect them from danger and to help them meet new people.

There is obviously a lot more to come as your children get older and become more independant.  This is just a stepping stone toward the greater understanding of the danger of strangers.  But it will teach your children the fundamentals and open the door for them to ask you questions.


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