Being aware of strangers is an easy concept to explain to children. A stranger is someone they don’t know. Parents remind their kids to never wander off with a stranger to help look for a lost puppy, for example, or to never let a stranger into the home when parents aren’t home. But it all starts to get complicated when the person is someone the child knows. More often than not, people with bad intentions are known, and may even be related, to the family and the children.
Kids don’t have to decide if an adult is bad or good, but it is important that parents teach their children to identify inappropriate adult behaviours so that kids become aware of what is considered appropriate and what is inappropriate. When children learn to identify certain behaviours, alarm bells should go off when they see these behaviours, signalling that they need to tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
People that may want to harm children are not all dirty and weird looking. They can be male or female, of any profession or social status, and of any age. They are usually very “normal” looking, generous, friendly and appear genuine. Being friendly and building trust are part of a “grooming” process used by predators to make children feel comfortable with them.
Here are some of RED FLAGS for parents and kids:
- Someone older is trying to hang out with the child, encouraging alone time online or in person.
- The child is spending a lot of time alone in her/his room with access to the internet.
- Someone is giving the child gifts (often expensive), money or favors or doing anything that seems too good to be true.
- Someone coincidentally has most of the same interests and hobbies as the child.
- Someone is frequently touching, hugging, or tickling the child.
- Someone is telling the child not to tell parents or to keep a secret from them.
Children need to know that they can talk about any concern or worry they have to parents/guardians or trusted adults whenever needed. They should be encouraged to talk about any situation where they feel afraid, confused or uncomfortable.
6 People Safety Rules to Remind Children Often
- NEVER GO WITH ANYONE YOU DON’T KNOW! Children don’t have to decide if someone is good or bad. Don’t go with anyone you don’t know. Period.
- ADULTS SHOULD GET OTHER ADULTS TO HELP THEM. If an adult needs help with directions or looking for a lost pet, they should ask another adult for assistance, not a child.
- IT’S OK TO IGNORE STRANGERS AND ADULTS WHO SHOW INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOURS! This is not considered rude. It is a safety rule.
- USE A FAMILY CODE WORD. A family code word can be used by someone your parent sends to pick you up. Refuse to go with anyone who can’t give you the code word. Don’t share the code word with anyone outside of the family.
- STAY FIVE STEPS BACK! If a person in a vehicle stops to talk, stay five steps back. Stay out of arms reach and never go into the vehicle.
- SCREAM, YELL, KICK, RUN! If someone’s actions or words make you feel unsafe, make the biggest scene possible and draw attention to yourself.
Image courtesy of David Castillo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
About Velma Ganassini
Velma Ganassini is the mother of 3 terrific boys, founder of the multi-award winning SOS First Aid and Safety Training, co-founder of SOS 4 Kids Inc (www.sosfirstaid.ca) and co-author of Home Alone Safety for kids. She is dedicated to making injury prevention information more interesting and engaging for children and adults. Follow Velma on Twitter @sosforkids.