As parents we want our kids to be safe and protected from predators here are 10 Things Your Child Should Know to be Safe from Predators
I went to pick up my two boys at school who were at the time 5 and 8. They greeted me and begged me to let them play on the school playground. So, we walked over to the playground and to my surprise it was full of children with very few parents around.
I noticed that some of our friend’s kids were talking to an adult of whom I didn’t recognize as a school parent or staff. I wasn’t too concerned since the children were interacting with him as if they knew him but I kept my eye on them. They continued to play and the adult I didn’t recognize was playing with them.
My youngest who was not in school fell and got hurt so I ran over to help him. After consoling him I turned around to inform my boys it was time to leave. My oldest ran over to me but I didn’t see my 5 year old. I began to panic. As I quickly surveyed the playground, I noticed the adult I didn’t recognize was gone and so were the children. And my son!
I walked around and then I saw my son–so I yelled for him.
He was walking out of the school gate with this complete stranger and three other children. I immediately noticed it was that man at the playground. I ‘m sure everyone around me thought I was crazy for yelling like a crazy woman, but I didn’t care. I ran over to him but by the time I got to him the adult man had left with the three kids.
I was a hot mess. There was a mix of feelings running through me–anger and relief. All I could do was hug my son and he really did look like he had no idea what just went down. I got on my knees and I said in a stern voice, “You did not ask me for permission to leave? Why would you leave with a stranger?” He replied, “He not a stranger he’s their friend and he was going to buy us suckers at the store across the street.”
Are you Giving Your Kids the Right Information About Predators?
After this incident I was determined to regularly talk to my children about tricky people and predators. We had already talk to them about our safety rules and my son knew he could never go with anyone unless he’s asked permission, he also knew that he shouldn’t talk to strangers but this “tricky person” was no longer a threat because his friends knew him.
As parents we can’t always be there to help our child and keep them safe but we sure can empower ourselves and our children with tools to know how to respond in certain situations.
First things first, there is no such thing as stranger danger–our predators have gotten smart. You may tell your child to stay away from strangers but then the predator comes and introduces themselves and voila– they are no longer a stranger. As with my child, his little friends knew the stranger so in his mind he was no longer a stranger which is why it’s important to talk about tricky people.
Did you know that ONLY 10% of predators are strangers to the child. An alarming 90% are someone they know and 23% of them are children (classmate, playmate, sibling, childcare/daycare kid, neighbor). Did you know that 1 out of 4 children are victims of child? WOW!
Perpetrators look just like you and me! They look just like a child, a grandparent, a pastor or priest, a coach, a friend, a mom or dad, a neighbor.. This is something we need to remind our kids of in a way that doesn’t scare them but empowers them.
Thankfully, this man who was about to walk out with my child was not a “tricky person” just an ignorant adult. But this scenario is what tricky people plot out to do. It was later explained that this man was a friend of the family. Unfortunately, my child’s warning signals didn’t go off because his little friends knew this man by name.
Since that scare we became more intentional with role playing and regularly checking in with our kids and specifically talking about “tricky people”. As a school counselor, I became a Child Safety Prevention speaker at our school giving workshops to students and parents. So I will be sharing with you below some of the tips I share with parents.
I want to encourage you not to wait for a close call or scary experience to hold family meetings where you talk about and role play these concepts periodically.
10 Tips on Child Safety and Tricky People for Kids
- Tricky people– These are people who may seem safe but are not. When I taught this workshop at schools I’d use the curriculum from Yello Dyno and they talk about tricky people. It’s not what someone looks like but what they say or do. Even if it’s someone you know if they are playing games and touching your private parts while playing it’s not okay and they are tricky people. Tricky people tell you to keep secrets, tell you it’s okay to do something without your parent’s permission, they are adults who ask kids for help. A safe adult would not ask a child for help. Trust your gut, if someone doesn’t feel safe then you as a parent don’t let them stay with your child. If you don’t feel safe playing or interacting with someone, it’s okay to walk away.
- Teach your kids not to do anything, go anywhere, with anyone unless they have asked for permission first. This includes neighbors, family members and especially people they don’t know.
- Your body belongs to you. You don’t have to ever kiss or hug anyone. You can say NO! As you talk about the body, make sure to use appropriate names for their body parts. Explain to your child that no one should ever touch them in their bathing suit area, ask to see their private parts or show them their private parts or take pictures of them.
- Teach them about warning signs. Role play these warning sign situations: if you feel frightened, unsafe, start sweating, heart is beating fast, your mind is telling you some thing is not right… these are warning signs your mind and body are telling you–RED FLAG! This is why it’s important not to make our children greet, hug, kiss relatives or friends.
related: No, My Child Doesn’t Have to Hug You
- You don’t have to be polite! Yes, I know that’s the opposite of what we try to teach our children but they need to know if they ever feel unsafe they don’t have to be polite. Role play situations with your children where they are yelling loudly–NO, STOP, HELP. What I tell my kids when someone whether it’s a child, or adult, stranger or someone we know and they are doing something you know is not okay or your mind and body is sending warning signs then you look them in the eye and say NO, STOP.
- Secrets are not allowed in this family. If someone says don’t tell your mom or threatens you and says, “If you tell your dad I’ll hurt you or you’ll get in trouble.” Don’t believe them! You should always tell a trusted adult immediately. We love you no matter what! YOu will not get in trouble for telling us this. You should always tell someone if something happens even if you’re embarrassed, scared or it felt good. It’s important that you communicate with grandparents who often like to sneak in a goody and then add, “It’s our little secret.” Let them know what you are teaching your children and if they could please help you by not saying–it’s our secret.
- Just because it feels good or is funny doesn’t make it right or appropriate. Sometimes tricky people do things in a way that feels good or seems okay, but it’s not. It’s never okay if someone plays a game and touches your private parts, asks to see your private parts, tickles your private parts, kisses you in other parts that are not private, play model and take pictures of your body and private parts. You should tell your parents right away.
- Safe adults don’t ask children for help.
- If you get lost– freeze and yell the adults name you are with, don’t yell mom or grandma because others can’t help or call for “mom”. Make sure your child has memorized your important phone numbers. Let them know not to ever go with anyone. Ask a mom with kids for help or an employee.
- You don’t have to help someone when you don’t feel safe. One of the things we do as a family regularly is serve, our kids see us model it and also partake in the blessing of giving to others. Service is one of the values I strongly I want to pass on to my children. So this point is a recent one I have added because I don’t want my kids who regularly see us helping others to help someone when they don’t feel safe. I want them to know they need to listen to their warning signs instead of listening to their desire or perhaps guilt that they need to help someone.
Tips for Parents:
- Parents: Don’t write your child’s name on the outside of stuff like a backpack, jacket, lunch bags. If a person approaches your child and calls him by name their warning flags might not go up at all or as quickly as you hoped.
- Come up with a code word as a family. This code word will let you the parent know that your doesn’t feel safe and wants help. Code phrase example–Mom or Dad I forgot to tell you today that the fish died. They can use this as a way to ask the adult to use their phone. For example they can say, “I need to call my mom, I forgot to tell her something very important.” This will help your child not feel like they need to explain anything to the adult or explain anything to you on the phone.
This is important to tell you children, in this situation it is okay to lie. Or your child can say, “I’m feeling really sick and I need to call home.” Another thing your child can do is lock themselves in the bathroom and not come out then ask to call home.
- When you role play situations make sure you don’t want to frighten your kid. Come up with simple role play situations.
- Let your kids know they can always talk to you but most importantly make time to listen to the little things because this builds trust for the big things. Don’t make this a one time conversation–check in with your kids every once in a while.
- Don’t allow inappropriate touching in your home. I know it sounds basic but sometimes between siblings they will find themselves innocently exploring. Though it may be innocent exploring if you ignore it they may filter that and think it’s okay to do this with others or for others to do this to them. So you need to put a boundary on that and let them what is okay and what is not.
- Don’t overreact when they share something. Whether it’s crying or yelling your kids see this and will not want to come to you when something does happen. Sometimes kids feel like they need to keep things a secret for fear of how we’ll react.
As a mom, I have a heart and passion to not only keep my children safe but also to empower other parents to do the same by sharing correct information. If you’re sharing “Stranger Danger” with your kids I want to give you a high five for being intentional. I also hope this post helps you see the need to expand your information to include “tricky people”, who look just like you and me.