Thursday, October 6, 2011
on talking to strangers
The other evening I brought the kids and the dog for a walk. They said they wanted to play on the slides, so I let them. But since I still wanted Kip to get her exercise, I said I would walk around them while they played.
So they got on the playground things and I started walking round and round them on the path. As I rounded one corner,I was surprised to see that a boy had come up to them and was hanging over them, saying something. The boy was big, about 15 or 16, and I did not like how close he was to the kids. B had put her arms around her sister, and was just glaring at him.
Needless to say, I was in his face in a second. I don't think he'd been aware of my presence, because he looked taken aback when I appeared, and he quickly tried to explain himself. Well, "explain himself" doesn't quite capture it; it was more like he was hoping to pull whatever stunt he'd been trying on the kids, on me.
Well of course, it had no effect at all. I just took the kids and left. He tried trailing after us a bit, but I looked at him so murderously that he left off, and I saw him running off in the other direction, from which his friends emerged.
I asked B what she had said to him, and she said, nothing, she just ignored him. He was trying to get them to follow him, and she had just held on to Ro. I can't tell you how much I thanked God that I had been right there on the scene. I shudder to think of the many situations every day, the world over, where young kids are left by themselves, even in as innocuous a place as a playground, and these creepos show up.
I found this excellent article and checklist on Safe Child about safety around strangers. I think all parents should take the time to educate themselves and their children on this -- it's something that's easy to overlook and take for granted.
"The rules I teach children regarding strangers build upon two simple ideas. The first is that there is only one person who is with you all the time, who can be responsible for keeping you safe, all the time. That person is you.
"The second basic idea is that when children are alone, it is their job to take care of themselves. It is not their job to take care of the adults in the world. If an adult needs assistance, they need to get it from another adult, not from a child".
Dr Sherryll Kraizer goes on to provide this "Stranger Rules Checklist":
A stranger is anyone you don't know. You can't tell the good guys from the bad guys by how they look. You are responsible for keeping yourself safe when you're by yourself.
You are responsible for taking care of yourself, not for grownups. Adults who need help should go to another adult.
Instinct is nature's way of talking to you - listen to that inner voice.
The 4 stranger rules you should always follow when you're not with an adult who it taking care of you are:
1. Stay an arms reach plus away from strangers. Stand up, back up and run to someone who can help you if you feel afraid.
2. Don't talk to strangers.
3. Don't take anything from strangers - not even your own things.
4. Don't go anywhere with someone you don't know.
The National Crime Prevention Council has an in-depth article on What to Teach Kids About Strangers:
"Perhaps the most important way parents can protect their children is to teach them to be wary of potentially dangerous situations – this will help them when dealing with strangers as well as with known adults who may not have good intentions. Help children recognize the warning signs of suspicious behavior, such as when an adult asks them to disobey their parents or do something without permission, asks them to keep a secret, asks children for help, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way. Also tell your children that an adult should never ask a child for help, and if one does ask for their help, teach them to find a trusted adult right away to tell what happened.
"You should also talk to your children about how they should handle dangerous situations. One way is to teach them “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. Make sure that your children know that it is okay to say no to an adult in a dangerous situation and to yell to keep themselves safe, even if they are indoors. It’s good to practice this in different situations so that your children will feel confident in knowing know what to do.
What Else Parents Can Do
In addition to teaching children how to recognize and handle dangerous situations and strangers, there are a few more things parents can do to help their children stay safe and avoid dangerous situations.
* Know where your children are at all times. Make it a rule that your children must ask permission or check in with you before going anywhere. Give your children your work and cell phone numbers so they can reach you at all times.
* Point out safe places. Show your children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there’s trouble.
* Teach children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell an adult. Tell them that sometimes adults they know may make them feel uncomfortable, and they should still get away as fast as possible and tell another adult what happened. Reassure children that you will help them when they need it.
* Teach your children to be assertive. Make sure they know that it’s okay to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in dangerous situations.
* Encourage your children to play with others. There’s safety in numbers!