Keeping it real: Stranger-safety talk

It is bound to happen, that talk about being aware, slightly paranoid, and uneasy around strangers to protect your kids from possible dangers.  It is hard to have this talk not because you don’t want the best for your children, but because in essence you are taking another step to less innocence in their lives.  It’s a necessary step but that doesn’t make it easy.  The sooner you have it the better, especially as they begin to be more independent and tend to veer off from your eyesight every now and then.  You don’t want to hover over them their entire lives and so some of that responsibility will have to be on them to stay safe – it’s all part of the growing up process.

The key is to strike a balance between paranoia and keeping aware and alert with enjoying life.  It is a hard balance, and parents who tend to exaggerate everything, including the dangers of strangers – and understandably so – risk becoming background noise for their kids.  You have to be reasonable and make sure that in your talk about safety to include every now and then some positive affirmations such as:

  • This is part of growing up and responsibility (giving them a sense of confidence)
  • This is because I love you and don’t want you to get hurt (reinforce your justification)
  • I understand that you want to do fun things sometimes when I’m not around (show understanding)
  • Not everyone is dangerous, but we can never know who can probably hurt you (temper the negativity)
  • Better to stay safe so that you can do other fun things later on (reinforce the positive aspects)

These are some examples of how to approach this sensitive subject, particularly for young ones who may not be able to fully absorb the possible repercussions of not being alert.  There are a number of other ways to do this, and as with every parenting technic, it really depends on your child’s personality, maturity, and interests.  How you frame this is very important, and it does not end at one discussion – this will have to be reiterated constantly in different ways.

Curious to know if there are other techniques to bring this topic to light without creating an excessively paranoid child – especially those prone to high anxiety.  And how to approach this with potential awareness challenges such as kids who are autistic?  Regardless of your approach, the important thing is to begin the conversation early and to plan your approach before you do to ensure a more effective conversation, hopefully with the results that you want.

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