Warning children about strangers: how to do it right?

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Explaining to children that unfortunately not all people mean well by them is difficult. Especially because, as parents, you don’t want to take away their basic trust in others. So how do you warn your children about strangers with evil intentions? 

I live in a small town. In one that I always thought nothing bad could ever happen there. Especially not my children. Then, not far from us, two school children on their way home were approached by a strange man.

The stranger wanted to persuade her to go with him with sweets. Nothing worse happened thanks to a vigilant local resident. The police were called in and took on the case. All hell has broken loose in my head since then.

My children, like all other children, are impartial, curious and thoughtless when it comes to other people. They are not aware that they could be dangerous. From where?

But we parents watch the news and hear stories. Of course only the bad ones – and they stick in your head. However, the probability that your own child will become a victim of a crime is low. Parents, on the other hand, are very afraid.

Parents should therefore prepare their children for dealing with strangers. For their feelings and to protect the children. Preferably without scaring them.

When should you warn children about strangers?

If a child asks specific questions about this, parents should definitely answer them honestly. The age is not decisive. In general, children of school age should be introduced to the topic. Especially if they can already manage the way to school or smaller excursions on their own.

behavior towards strangers

As a parent, you want your child to be and remain open and respectful of other people. Nobody wants to arouse false mistrust. That’s why it’s important to take the time to talk. Definitely avoid the phrase, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Because it only creates fear. Rather, you should carefully introduce your children to the topic.

Sit down together and explain to them that there are people who don’t mean well by them. Avoids details such as kidnappings or pedophilia. Talk to your child normally and simply.

It is important that your child understands what you are saying. Let them know that they can always say “no” if they’re uncomfortable. That his will counts. And that there are ways in which it can protect itself.

How do I protect my child?

Children are often spoken to – with or without their parents, in shops or on the street. Most of the time they are people who have no evil in mind. Children respond politely to their questions, revealing many things: name, age, place of residence, siblings, etc.

As a parent, you should teach your child that he or she can say certain things like their name (first name only) calmly. Other things, such as where you live or information about siblings, are none of your business.

If children go to school unaccompanied by their parents, it can help if they get together with neighbours’ children, classmates or older school children. The more children walk together, the safer it becomes for each one.

A family password can also be a great piece of security. If a stranger speaks to the child and wants to persuade them to go with them – for example with the sentence “Mum/Dad sent me to pick you up” – the child can ask for the password. If the person does not know the word, the child does not go with them.

In addition, children should learn to draw attention to themselves in a dangerous situation – by screaming, shouting or speaking to other passers-by. Running away can also be an option. Therefore, children should know where they can ideally run to.

In many places there are so-called “emergency islands”. But restaurants, bakeries, cafés and shops – generally places where there are more people – also offer refuge.

Children need to be able to confide in their parents

We cannot accompany our children all day. But we must let them know that we are always there for them. If the worst comes to the worst, they should tell us about it openly and not have the feeling that they have done something wrong.

Trusting the child and knowing that the child trusts their parents can protect them from great danger. That’s why you can’t tell your offspring often enough that you listen to them, that you believe them and that you’re always there when they have something on their mind.

All-round protection harms children

The impulse to protect your child from such dangerous situations is great. But it doesn’t help children to be accompanied by mum and dad all the time. That is why it is so important that they learn to extricate themselves from such situations.

They need to know how to react, how to get attention, or where to go for help. This gives them the necessary self-confidence to defend themselves in an actual dangerous situation.

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