Stranger Awareness

By Karen Larsen

A woman on a cell phone being followed by a man with a hooded sweatshirt

The term “stranger” is often a difficult one for children to understand. It is a simple case of if the person(s) is not a family member or trusted friend, or, neighbour; they are a stranger. To many children, strangers are people they do not know, whose appearance is frightening, ugly, or dirty. They also think strangers are men. It is important to explain to the child that a woman and even another child (teen) can be a stranger.

Many children are abducted every day by “nice clean looking people” or “harmless looking” people without whom they are acquainted with. Parents should be ever vigilant in warning their children about strangers in general terms and not in some descriptive category. They should teach their children to recognize potentially dangerous situations and avoiding them at all costs. The following are some rules for safety you should be sure your child understands and follows regularly:

  • Teach your child to be aware of his, or her, surroundings and the behaviour of the people around him or her.
  • Teach your child not to be too trusting. Strangers who tell your child they were sent by his parents are not to be believed. You might consider setting up a “secret code word, password, or phrase” with your child to ensure they go with someone who has been authorized by you in the event you need someone to pick up your child. It is also your responsibility to call the school, or daycare, if you are sending someone else to pick up your child. Make sure your child knows to go back to the school office if the person picking them up does not know the password.
  • Teach your child not to accept gifts from strangers and to avoid being alone with overly friendly adults who try to touch him or her in any way. One ploy is for the offender to seek the assistance of a child to find a lost puppy. Teach your child not to go with anyone no matter what the reason.
  • Teach your child to avoid playing alone in deserted areas.
  • Teach your child to report any suspicious behaviours he witnesses or experiences.
  • Teach your child to use the buddy system when using public facilities such as the restroom.
  • Teach your child to run in the opposite direction if a car is following him or her.
  • Teach your child to seek help from “helpful strangers” such as Safe Parents, store clerks, police officers in uniform, firemen in uniform, bus drivers, or other reliable authorities when in danger.