I am a local police officer, youth coach, father and husband and want to share a concern I have. Many of us have heard of the child safety program “stranger danger.” It’s an extremely common phrase in our society. The general media continue to fall back on the phrase and many parents still use the phrase as a tool to teach their kids how to stay safe. The problem with teaching “stranger danger” is that it doesn’t teach kids how to tell the difference between good and bad strangers and misses the message that sometimes people they know may be the person doing bad things. Many people would be surprised to find out that the Center for Missing and Exploited Children has never supported this program
I have taken positive lessons from multiple sources and used them to teach my children what I believe is more well-rounded guidance. My kids were taught to recognize inappropriate behavior in adults, even family members and that it’s OK to tell their parents if they are ever uncomfortable. Also, when they were younger, I taught them if they ever got lost or separated from us, to find a mother with children. Any mother can tell you that if a lost child came up to them that they would stay with them until the child was safe. If lost, a child who was taught that all strangers are dangerous may panic and simply freeze. The problem is that predatory people pick up on this reaction like a shark to blood in the water. As a family we have also developed a code word. This is different than a password that you give somebody so your kids know it’s OK to go with them if you can’t pick them up. The code word is a simple, but obscure word that we use to let the kids know if danger (bad people) are around us. If your kids are like mine, they are wrapped up in cellphones, texting, fancy new head phones…anything but paying attention to their parents. The code word breaks through all that and quickly gets their attention and lets them know mommy and daddy are serious, pay attention!
I hope you find these few suggestions helpful. They may not be for everybody, but they have worked well in our family.