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 that I didn’t recognize was playing with them.
Then I ran over to help my youngest who fell. 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 years old.
Panic ran through my body as I surveyed the playground. The adult I didn’t recognize was gone, the children were gone and so was my son!
I walked around and then I saw my son going towards the parking lot–so I yelled for him.
He was walking out of the school gate with this complete stranger and three other children. Immediately I noticed it was the 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. Finally, 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 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 talked 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. 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 this man was no longer a stranger.
This 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 is victimized by a child? WOW!
Here’s the thing we need to remember and our kids need to remember: Perpetrators look just like you and me! They look just like a nice and normal 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, 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 at the playground, 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 swimsuit area it’s not okay. Tricky people tell you to keep secrets, tell you it’s okay to do something without your parent’s permission, and 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 don’t let them stay with your child. Tell your child if they 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, show them their private parts or take pictures of them.
- Teach them about warning signs. Tell them if they feel frightened, unsafe, start sweating, the heart is beating fast, their mind is telling the something 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. When someone whether it’s a child or adult, stranger or someone we know 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 then get away.
- This family does not have secrets. 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 goodie and say, “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 touches your private parts, asks to see your private parts or tickles your private parts as part of a game. Or kiss you, 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 adult’s name you are with. Don’t yell mom or grandma because others can’t help when you’re yelling 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. As a family, we are regularly involved in outreach service activities. Our kids see us model “helping others” and they are involved in serving others. So, I recently added this point because I don’t want my kids who regularly see us helping others, to help a predator. I want them to know they need to listen to the warning signs and their instincts even if it means they will come across as being rude.
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 children in this situation that it is okay to say this because it’s a code word. The child can say, “I feel really sick, I need to call home.” Have your child lock themselves in the bathroom and ask to call home.
- When you role play situations make sure you don’t frighten your kid. Come up with simple role play situations.
- Let your kids know they can always talk to you. 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 assume this means it’s okay. So you need to calmly set boundaries and tell them what is okay and what is not.
- Don’t overreact when they share something happened. Your kids will remember your outburst and reactions. They will not want to come to you when something does happen if you overreact. Sometimes kids feel like they need to keep things a secret for fear of how you’ll react.
I have a desire to keep my children safe and empower other parents to do the same. I hope this post helps you see the need to change from the “stranger danger” mentality to “tricky people”. Tricky people who look just like you and me.