Parents need to teach children about good vs. bad strangers
While every parents has probably taught their children about “Stranger Danger” as a way to help keep them safe, Sgt. Leanne Worthen of the Yuma Police Department said sometimes a child may actually need to talk to a stranger.
Worthen suggests while talking to your child about stranger danger, make sure they know what you mean by a stranger and that they know the difference between a bad stranger and a safe stranger. This is important, she said, because it will help your child know who they can turn to when they need help.
Some examples of these safe strangers, Worthen said, include police officers, firefighters, security guards, teachers, store clerks, and other parents who have children with them.
“Don't talk to strangers means something different for every parent telling it to their child,” Worthen said. “Usually it means someone you don't know, but that same stranger or someone else may be able to help them.”
Worthen said parents can help their children recognize these safe strangers by pointing them out whenever the opportunity presents itself. Parents can also show their children places they can go if they ever need help, such as stores, restaurants and other such public buildings.
While not talking to strangers should work as a general rule, Worthen said it is also just as important to teach your child what to do when a stranger approaches them. The best way to do this is by teaching your them about a person's suspicious behavior.
“It's more about teaching them to be on the lookout for the things that make them uncomfortable now, instead of the scary person. Children have instincts just like we do,” Worthen said. “You have to teach children what is appropriate. After all, it's hard to tell a child what a stranger looks like. They can look like anyone they see every day.”
Teaching your child to recognize a stranger's suspicious behavior, Worthen said, includes letting them know that a trusted adult will never ask them to disobey their parents or do something without permission, or keep a secret.
A trusted adult, she added, will also never offer a child a ride home or ask them for help finding a lost pet. If one does, it's important for a child to know they need to find a trusted adult and tell them what had happened.
Worthen said also take the time to explain to your child where these dangerous situations are likely to occur, such as a park or walking home from school, and usually when the child is by themselves.
“It's important from the beginning to teach your children to always ask you if they can go somewhere,” Worthen said. “Teach them that they got to let you know and where they are going.”
Worthen also said that if your child is approached by a stranger who tries to lure or physically pull them away, teach them the best thing they can do is get the attention of other adults. One way of doing this is to teach them about “No, Go, Yell, Tell.” If in a dangerous situations, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can, and tell a trusted adult what happened right away.
Just as important, Worthen said a parent needs to make sure that their children know that it is OK to say no to an adult in a dangerous situation and to yell to keep themselves safe, even if they are indoors.
Something else Worthen said parents can do is go to the library and check out books on stranger danger and use them to teach their children about the subject.
Worthen said the topic of stranger danger is a subject that a parent needs to keep talking to their children about because as the child grows up, they are likely to encounter different types of situations.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.