With the disappearance of little Kyron and so many other children, we felt it was time to write about this. Sadly, no one knows what happened to Kyron but his disappearance has brought up a lot of discussion amongst parents regarding the issues of strangers and abduction. Most of us were brought up with the term “stranger danger” (basically, don’t talk to strangers) which, as we reassess it – taught us no actual safety skills.
The reality is that 90% of the time a child is harmed, it is by someone they know, and usually, love and trust. As we teach both children and parents about personal safety – we present reasons why we disband the myth of “stranger danger.” 1) We cannot model “don’t talk to strangers” because adults need to talk to strangers everyday to function in the world. Children learn what we do, not what we say. 2) If your child gets separated from you they will need to seek help from a stranger. We want children to have the knowledge and confidence to handle this potentially frightening and stressful “what if” situation. Do you know what you should teach your child to do if they get separated from you? They should approach a mom with children, because a mom will stay with your child until you are reunited – and trust me, they don’t want another child to take home with them. Don’t tell your child to look for a security guard or store worker because they are hard to find sometimes and can’t leave their post to stay with your child. 3) We teach children, parents and teachers that, instead of teaching our children to fear strangers, they should instead be on the lookout for certain behaviors, situations and actions rather than what someone looks like. You cannot tell what is in a person’s heart by the way they look on the outside.
It seems more parents are more concerned with “stranger danger” than ever before. Why? Because when a child is harmed by someone they know, it rarely makes the news. When a child is abducted by a stranger, it makes the front page. Although, statistically speaking, abduction by a stranger is much less prevalent than abduction from someone familiar, we wanted to give moms concrete skills you can teach your child to be safe from stranger abduction.
Teach your child the 5 step back rule. When they are playing outside and a car or person comes by, they should automatically take 5 steps back. We teach children in our KidSafe program to pay attention to their surroundings and their personal space. A person that wants to do harm to your child is looking for an easy “target,” not a child that has been taught personal safety. Just by your child taking 5 steps back and not approaching a car when asked – your child is now a “difficult” target.
Teach your child that they have rights! They have the right to say NO to an adult they do not know. So when an adult in a car wants to ask them something they should yell “NO!” and run to go tell a trusted adult. Teach your child that adults they do not know should not be asking children for help (can you help me find my puppy? Can you help me with directions?) They should be asking other adults for help. Children understand this concept – and understand that it is okay in certain situations to NOT be polite. Their personal safety comes first.
We teach these skills through role play. But at the end of the day, the best way for your child to be safe is for you to watch them, model safe choice making, role play with them and be there to talk to them about anything.
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