Dr. Mom: Start teaching kids 'stranger safety' tactics

02/28/2012 12:00 AM

02/26/2013 8:10 PM

Teaching our kids stranger safety is one of those vital, uncomfortable and fear-provoking subjects we must broach with our children.

Every now and then, we hear of a story that brings this parental must-do into the spotlight.

Recently, a 7-year-old girl in Georgia was almost abducted by a stranger as she browsed the toy aisle in a Walmart. Thankfully, she kicked and screamed until her would-be abductor dropped her and ran. The incident was caught on videotape.

While such cases are rare, they do occur. Are we to live in fear and keep our children attached at our hips for the rest of their childhood? No way. However, what we should and need to do is educate and empower them.

Take the time to review these stranger safety rules with your children. Revisit them time and again as your child gets older.

Define three "safe" adults for your child. They could be Mom, Dad, and Grandma. These are the only three people your child is allowed to go anywhere with – no exceptions unless your child gets your face-to-face permission.

Educate your child about "kind-of knows." These are people in your child's life such as coaches, teachers, neighbors, whom your child knows but are not on their "safe" list. Again, they are never to go anywhere with a "kind-of know" unless they have your explicit permission.

Remind children to keep a safe distance from cars and strangers. They should never approach the car of a stranger, no matter what. Go through practice scenarios with your child and inform them that a nice stranger would never ask a child for help or offer them a special treat or present unless you (the parent) were with them.

Advise your children to use the buddy system. There really is safety in numbers. This includes trips to the bathroom and walking home from school.

Give your children permission to yell, scream, run, and kick – whatever they need to do to get away from a threatening situation. Teach them to yell, "This is not my mom! This is not my dad!"

Make sure you and your children have an action plan just in case you become separated in a store. Show them how to go the checkout line and talk to a worker. Above all, make sure they know to never leave the store, by themselves and certainly not with anyone. Assure them you would never leave without them, so it's best to stay put until you are reunited.

Teach your child her address, home phone and cell numbers – the earlier the better.

A great DVD to watch together is "The Safe Side" by John Walsh. It's appropriate for ages 4 and older and impresses upon children these difficult concepts in a nonthreatening way.

As parents we know that we cannot keep our kids inside our protective bubble forever. We want them to explore this great big world with confidence, not fear. So by all means believe in the kindness of strangers, as I do. Just remember to educate your children and empower them with these important safety tips.

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