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Stranger Danger Tips Every Mom Should Know

Originally published Saturday, 12 April 2014.

To a parent with little kids, spring means "Hello, playgrounds!"  (Along with a sigh that means, "Thank God they can finally run around outside!")  As much as we eagerly anticipate letting them hit the ground running - literally - it is also important that we teach them how to do it safely.  And I am not talking about safe acrobatics.  Today, I want to communicate some very important information about keeping our children safe around strangers.

We pray for safety for our children.  We worship a God who promises, "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield..." (Psalm 91:4).  After attending a child safety lecture this fall, I am convinced that God uses parental instruction, intuition, and attention to help keep our children safe.  By learning the right information and acting upon it, we can be a shield of protection for our children - for there is often a pattern to child abuse.

The information I am sharing comes from a seasoned criminal prosecutor and mother of four children.  If you missed my first article this fall, be sure to read Safety Tips Every Mom Should Know for her invaluable, practical tips on how to protect your children from sexual abuse.  Today, I am passing along some essential stranger danger tips.  Less than 10% of child abuse is committed by strangers, but these assaults are the most dangerous.

You can protect your child by following these tips:

Grown-ups don’t ask kids for help.  The most common tactic pedophiles use when approaching children is to ask them for help with something.  Let your children know that grown-ups need to ask other grown-ups for help and that they should run to their parent or caregiver if an adult approaches them for help.   Teach your children that they are responsible for keeping themselves safe and they have permission to ignore an unknown adult requesting help.

No names, only initials.  Never put a child’s name on anything that will be worn or carried outside the home.  If an adult knows their name, a child assumes they know THEM.   This is just as true for older children as younger ones.

Teach young children to ask a mommy for help when lost.  Teach children that if they become separated from you, they should stay where they are and not go looking for you.  If they need help, they should look for a “mommy.”  Even very young children know what “mommies” look like and women (especially those who have children with them) are the safest option.

NEVER get near an unknown adult in a car.    Children who are abducted into an automobile are at the greatest risk.  Teach your children that they should NEVER approach a car driven by someone they don’t know well under ANY circumstances.   Let older children know that they should scream, fight, run and do everything and anything they can to avoid getting into an unknown car.  If someone does try to approach them in a car, they should run away in the opposite direction. 

Be careful when letting young boys use men’s restrooms!  Don't be afraid to open the door to the public restroom and check in with your child by asking, "Are you okay in there?  Mom is right out here!"  Not only will this potentially comfort your child, but most importantly it serves to let other adults know that you are tuned in and attentive.  Teach your children that it is never okay for another adult to touch them.

For further exploration, a good friend recently recommended these resources:

* The Safe Side - Stranger Safety: Hot Tips To Keep Cool Kids Safe With People They Don't Know and Kinda Know (2005).  This is a video for children ages 2-10.

* The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers.  This is a book from the popular series for children ages 3 and up.

The majority of the information above is a direct copy of material written by criminal prosecutor Beth Little and is used with her permission.  She is eager for you to pass it on!  Be safe everyone!

{Photo by Carl Wycoff at Flickr}