ThinkSafe Tips for Parents of Young Children
We’ve probably all warned our children about strangers. But young children have frequent interaction with strangers in public places. Well-meaning, friendly adults often initiate friendly conversation. Pedophiles often use the same techniques, and can be very skilled at making a friendly connection, and taking advantage of the child’s instinctive trust for adults. It can be confusing for a child to try and differentiate between “good and bad” strangers. So we prefer to teach the following simple guidelines:
- Parents should talk with the child about strangers, openly and publicly, when approached by one. For example, in the grocery store, a kind-faced stranger approaches and asks your child, “Are you helping Mommy?” Parents should smile politely and ask the child, “Is this person a stranger?” (Don’t be surprised if the answer is “No.”) Then respond with, “This person is a stranger, but it’s OK to talk with him, because I’m with you.”
- Young children should always be in the care of a trusted adult. Make it a habit to go over the list of trusted adults, and remind your child that talking to strangers is OK if a trusted adult is watching. Make sure all of your child’s care-givers take the same approach, and ask them to initiate the same conversations with your child, when a stranger makes contact.
- Make sure children understand that they should not go anywhere with a stranger unless a trusted adult comes, too. If the child is separated from his or her caregiver in a public place, the child should know who to approach. This can be taught and reviewed. Most families have a finite number of places they typically go with young children. It is easy to plan accordingly. For example, “At the grocery store, if you can’t find me, who do you ask for help? A cashier. Where is the cashier? At the mall, if you can’t find me, who do you ask for help? At the soccer field…”and so on. Talk about this when you are visiting these places with your child.
- No secrets. Sometimes a relative will harmlessly indulge a child, saying, “Don’t tell Mom I let you stay up this late”, or keep other “fun” secrets, as a way to bond with a child. Make sure all caregivers understand that this sets a dangerous precedence, as pedophiles do the same thing, and develop a bond of secrecy they can exploit. No secrets, period.
Please feel free to contact David Quinlan with any questions you might have at 893 – 8893 (Milton), 863-8863 (Colchester) and at info@MartialWayVT.com.