BY JAMIE LOBER
The term “Stranger Danger” can be misleading, as it implies that all the people your child knows are safe. The reality is that 90 percent of abused children know the abuser, and it may be a neighbor, friend, or family member. The person can look just like you or me, and does not always appear as the monster that you may see in movies.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety offers some tips, including:
- Never go near a car if a stranger asks for directions or anything else.
- Never accept gifts, money or medicine from a stranger.
- Never open a door for a stranger or tell him you are alone.
- Never speak about plans, especially vacation plans, to strangers.
Another effective strategy is making sure your child knows his or her address and phone number, including area code and zip code. They can either memorize it or carry it with them on an index card. It is also wise to have a password or code word that only you and your child know. Anyone your child does not know who attempts to pick him up from school or befriend him should know this code word. Be sure they know both parents’ first names. Role-playing is one way to instill these skills. A perfect example is asking your child what he would do if he was in the house alone and someone rang the doorbell.
There are considerations if your child tends to wander by nature or has special needs, such as autism. The Autism Society of North Carolina has offered some suggestions on how to help keep your child safe, such as:
- Be sure neighbors know your child and are willing to search for him in an emergency situation.
- Introduce your child to first responders, such as the police and firefighters, so they are not afraid to interact with them.
- Have safety measures in place, such as a home security alarm system, window locks, and alarms on windows and doors, so you are informed if someone is trying to open them.
- If your child has an individualized education plan, make sure safety is incorporated in the goals.
- Teach your child how to safely cross the street.
- Teach your child the meaning of street signs like “stop.”
- Teach your child the difference between a safe person and a stranger.
- Talk to your child about where to go if he or she is in trouble.
- Consider getting an ID bracelet or even an electronic tracking device.
If your child ever feels endangered, he or she should know to approach the nearest neighbor, friend, or law enforcement official. They should always do their best to avoid strangers when out and about, whether on the playground or at the shopping center. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has listed things that you can do as a parent to help your child stay safe, including:
- Maintain an awareness of your child’s environment.
- Be aware of anybody initiating alone time with your child.
- Check out babysitters or anyone who tends to your child carefully.
- Talk to your child about his time with those who care for him.
Reassure your child that people of all ages need to take precautions. One of the best things you can do that may be overlooked is sticking with a buddy. When you use the buddy system, you are less likely to be approached by trouble. He or she should be encouraged to trust their instincts and know that they should never be made to feel uncomfortable or do anything that they do not want to do. Be sure that “Stranger Danger” is not a one-time conversation and that it is revisited as various situations arise. By having confidence in your child, believing him and trusting his judgment, you are automatically doing your part to ensure he stays safe.
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