stranger dangerTeaching your child how to interact with people they don’t know can be a tricky thing. Parents want nothing more than to keep our kids safe, but we also want our kids to be engaging and polite in certain social situations. So how can we ensure we’re not sending them mixed messages? Well, teaching them stranger danger can wind up confusing them, because it may cause them to shy away from good-intentioned people who just want to say hello. So what’s the right way to teach them to stay safe?

When Should Your Child Put on Their ‘Stranger Danger’ Armor?

Instead of just telling your child, “Don’t talk to strangers,” teach them when and where it is safe to interact with people they don’t know. Here are some basic guidelines:

#1: When your kids are out with you, you are there to keep them safe, so it’s okay to say hello and interact with new people.

#2: If your child is alone, this is when they need to turn their stranger danger radar on. They need to be extra cautious of strangers trying to talk to them when you’re not around. Teach them to be wary of strangers that offer them a ride, gifts, candy or anything else. Tell them to yell “NO!” very loudly and run to the nearest person, house, or business.

#3:  If an adult stranger asks them for help, your child should know to find a police officer, security guard, or store employee. If that’s not possible, tell your child to look for women or people with children who may be able to help.

#4: Teach your child the difference between appropriate and inappropriate physical contact. Tell them not to ever be afraid to tell you if a stranger, family member, or a friend” tries to touch them inappropriately or asks them to do something inappropriate.

#5: Encourage your child to trust their own instincts. Kids will naturally be scared of mean-looking people, but many kidnappers and abductors look like normal people that disguise themselves as friendly and safe. So the best thing to do is teach your kids to judge people by their actions. Most normal adults know that you shouldn’t offer children candy when they’re by themselves that would make us creepy! So if an adult approaches them while they’re alone with any kind of food or gifts, they should stay away. And if they sense that someone or something isn’t right, they need to walk away immediately and find an adult that can help them.

About a million people (adults and children) were reported missing to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) in the early 2000s. We hope that by educating the public about being aware of people and their surrounding, we will continue to save lives.

For more information on parenting topics and child safety, read Hospitality Health ER’s blog on Raising the Streetwise Kid and Accidental Poisoning.