You drop your child off at preschool, tell him to be on his best behaviour, enjoy himself, then give him a goodbye kiss. Many of us also throw in the parting shot, “Don’t talk to strangers!”
Though this message has been passed down from generation to generation with the best of intentions, it may not be the best way to keep junior safe. Teaching children to fear strangers actually creates confusion for the child and can interfere with his willingness to ask for help when needed.
Claudia Lim, 30, and mum to Shane, 3, also feels that parents should teach their offspring to be safe without making them scared. “I always thought it was weird when parents told their kids to greet ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’, yet tell them to stay away from strangers. The kid is sure to be confused!”
So, teaching “stranger danger” is actually contradictory, misguided and does nothing to keep your child safe. Well, not if you equip him with the knowledge of stranger awareness and the safety rules to protect himself.
Teach stranger awareness
The key is to alert your children that some people are just not what they seem to be. Stress to your mini-me that predators can come in different packages and may, in fact, look like your average Joe or Jane. For mum of two, Shida Rashid, 35, the evening stroll to the neighbourhood playground offers opportunities for her to teach her tots about what seems right and what doesn’t.
She says, “I always tell them that it’s perfectly fine to say ‘hi’ to people they meet, but never to accept sweets or other snacks, and of course, to follow them home.”
Empower your child with self-confidence and trust in his ability to sense when something is not right. Rather than telling him not to talk to strangers, you need to teach him the danger of going off with anyone without getting permission from you, the parent.
Give children tools to protect themselves
Indeed, it’s hard not to be fearful of the big bad world out there, particularly in relation to our children. We’ve come across countless cases of kids who go missing and even child abduction attempts. As parents, we need to give our children tools to protect themselves — one way is to set rules.
Mylene Ng, 35, mum to Sherry, 3 and Sherice, 6, makes it a point to remind her girls of a list of safety rules. “Among the list is, to not give out personal information to anyone, even if you think you know the person. Check with mummy first. Another important one is that absolutely no one should touch my private parts.”
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