Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Talking to Your Kids about Violence and Stranger Safety

Parent Pick-Up Group Discussion: 1/17/13

Our discussion started with three articles from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The first discusses how typical ‘Stranger Danger’ messages can do more harm than good, and gives very good suggestions on how to give your kids practical strategies for specific situations. The other two articles are on walking to and from school safely (something many of our kids who live in close proximity to the school do on a daily basis), and on preventing abduction. Both of these articles list similar good tips to give to your kids regarding strangers.

            Our group of parents shared different experiences we’ve had when a child got lost for a short time in public, and we all agreed this can be terrifying for us (nevermind for our kids!) Some general strategies and tips that came out of this conversation include the following:

·         Put your contact information somewhere on  your child when going to a busy place (airports, amusement parks, etc.)  in case you get separated and your child is too small or upset to be able to tell someone how to reach you.  This could be just slip of paper in a pocket, or there are actually dogtags, bracelets, and other jewelry-type things that can be bought for this purpose.

·         Teach kids to look for “helpers” when needed: police/someone in a uniform, another parent, etc.

·         Teach your kids that it’s okay to ask questions of an adult, especially if that adult says they are supposed to come with them. They can ask “what’s my mom’s first and middle name?” or similar questions. Sometimes we teach our kids so much about being polite that they may not feel empowered to question an authority figure. Of course, if the person is legitimate he or she will have no problem answering questions and will not be annoyed/angered by this action.

·         Kids can sometimes have an inflated sense of their own power or “toughness” (as in: ‘if anyone tries to mess with me I’ll just karate kick them!’) You might need to explain and/or model just how easy it can be for an adult to overpower a kid just due to body size.

·         Open the discussion with your kids by talking about what they would do in case of an emergency (call 911), and what constitutes an emergency.

·         MPD has good information on their website at regarding safety; they also have a link to the sex offender registry, where you can see the map of offenders who may live in your area (scary thought, but true).

·         Of course, keeping communication open with your child and making sure they feel comfortable talking to you about strangers, their body, their fears, etc. is crucial.
Please check out the articles below and feel free to add your own tips or questions in the comments section! Hope you see you at our next group!

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