Stranger Danger: Helping Children Stay Safe
Parents want to protect their children at all times, but they can not be with them every minute of every day. Children need to learn how to stay safe, be smart, and protect themselves from strangers and abduction when on their own at school, at play, and even at home. Parents can help children learn what to do when in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation.
The following tips may help parents and children feel safer.
- Parents must have the right attitude and approach: Parents must set the right tone for their children. When parents are calm when discussing tough or scary topics, children will be better able to listen and learn. Parents must monitor their own fear and be careful not to alarm their children.
- Consider the child's age.
- 6-9 year old school age children are more capable of understanding right from wrong. They are able to remember information and put it into practice but may get overwhelmed in a difficult situation.
- 10-13 year old children may overestimate their ability to handle a bad situation. They also may feel they should not be scared and be nonchalant in their attitude about risk.
- Deliver information in an age appropriate way. Younger children will benefit from playing and repeated conversations. Parents of older children can discuss current events or real situations to educate them about danger.
- Be aware of specific ploys used by strangers. Teach children not to help strangers look for lost puppies, accept gifts or candy, or get in a car with someone they do not know.
- Use the TASK strategy: the following components
- Ask: After talking to children, it is important to ask them what they heard. This allows parents to correct misinformation and determine what needs to be reviewed or discussed differently.
- Show: It can be helpful for parents to practice with children what they have learned. This can mean going to a mall and having a child ask for help from a store clerk, or walking through the neighborhood and watch as the child goes to an identified neighbors house.
- Know: Make sure children know who, when, where, how to get help. For example, they should know their name, address, and phone number; how to dial 911; who will pick them up from school and activities; other friends and family who have been approved
- Monitor media: Especially when child abductions and murders are in the news, parents should be aware of what their children are watching or hearing. Help them separate out fact from fantasy. Parents should be sensitive to any changes in their children's behavior, especially sleeping problems and nightmares, and seek additional guidance.
About the Author
Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist specializing in bereavement issues.
References and Related Books
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers
Stan & Jan Berenstain, Random House, 1985
Paulette Bourgeois, Brenda Clark, Scholastic Books, 1992
About the NYU Child Study Center
The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at http://www.aboutourkids.org/.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.