It’s difficult to teach our kids who to trust. In the past, “stranger danger” is a term used to warn children against the troubles that could come from people they’ve never met. However, we do tell them trust police officers, firefighters, grown ups at church, etc. - even though they are technically strangers as well. So, technically, there are such things as “safe strangers”. A stranger can easily introduce themselves to a child and say, “See, I’m not a stranger anymore."
It’s far more important to teach kids about the dangers of “tricky people”.
If a child thinks there may be something not quite right with someone - whether it’s a stranger, neighbor, family friend, or anyone else - that person is “tricky”. Here are a few ways to identify a “tricky person”:
Tricky people are grown ups who ask children for help. Safe grown ups go to other grown ups when they need assistance.
Tricky people will encourage kids to keep a secret from their parents. They don’t want children to talk about the things they experience or hear about.
Tricky people could be grown ups, or other kids.
Tricky people might do something, or ask kids to do something, that makes them uncomfortable.
Here’s what you can teach your child to do if they are ever approached by a “tricky person”:
Shout “no!” if someone ever tells you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.
Do not do anything, or go anywhere, without permission from your parents.
Tell a safe grown up what happened. There is no such thing as “keeping secrets from your parents”. Especially if the secret makes you unhappy.
Here are a few other practical tips you can use you equip your child:
Pay attention to the feeling in your tummy that tells you if someone is “tricky”. You might get a feeling, or hear a special voice, that someone isn’t safe. In that case, you should find a safe grown up and tell them what you feel.
You are the boss of your body.
Body areas that are covered by your swimming suit are private. Only your parents can tell you if it’s okay for someone else to see or touch your private body parts (like a doctor).
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you can say “no” to them, run away, or scream. You don’t have to be polite to “tricky people”.
If you get lost in a public space, you can freeze and yell for “help”. You can let as many people as possible know that you’re lost.