Children naturally are usually withdrawn
around people they don’t know or are not familiar with. In some cases however,
some children might be overly receptive of strangers and might not be disturbed
by their presence. As a parent the best approach to the issue of contact with
strangers would be to teach them who to trust and who not to. Although what you
say to your children about strangers would be dependent on their age, you should
teach them the basics of safety from strangers.
Normally, children below four years of age
do not know who is safe and who is not. As soon as they are a little over 5
years old, you can start teaching them to safety rules which are practical
enough for them to internalize. At this stage, they are still too young for in-depth
conversations on strangers as they can’t make the right judgements and don’t
have full control of their impulses. At this age, it would be unwise to leave
them unattended to or unsupervised as they very well would make a lot of
mistakes in your absence.
From ages 5-8 years, you could be a
little relaxed and could for short periods leave them unsupervised to play and
do some things unattended. At this age, they might have heard about some
strangers are dangerous and this knowledge would guide them. At this stage they
would even be able to operate your home appliances conveniently; this is when
you need to teach them about safety around strangers. Apply the following
- Start with body safety: Children being attached to their parents at a young age isn’t a bad thing. You should even emphasize that they stay close to you when you are going out. Teach them to be self conscious about their body so that they get used to not allowing strangers come too close or touch them in an unusual way. This knowledge helps your children to immediately know when strangers try to make wrong moves and there on, helps them to be able to communicate occurrences of such to you.
- Discuss the Concept of Strangers: Some children naturally are inquisitive and would probe and tug at you whenever they meet new people they don’t know or people you know which they aren’t familiar with. Next time your little kid asks you who a particular stranger is don’t ignore them or wave them off, make it a point of importance to tell them about this new person. This makes it easy for them to study your reactions to their questions and know if such people are okay by your standards, from your response they would know how feel about them talking to such people. To avoid getting your child worked up about the term “stranger” just tell him “a stranger is anybody you do not know”. From there gradually help them get used to what or should be consider safe or friendly. Even a dog can be considered a stranger; there have been cases where children have been attacked, maimed or injured by going too close to unknown dogs thinking that all dogs are safe. This is why it is the parents’ duty to make a habit of correcting their kids whenever they exhibit such behaviour of moving too close to people unknown to either of you. With time they would internalize the habit of differentiating and knowing who to relate to and who not to.
- Point out adults that kids can trust: Helping kids identify who they can trust and communicate with is also essential to helping them gradually build a mental database of trusted people who they can rely on when they need help, especially when you are not around. Pointing out such people physically would help them mentally register such people to mind. Some of these people could be your neighbours at home, security guards, family members and friends.
- Familiarize your child with his/her environment: This one of the ways to raise children that are very aware of their immediate surroundings, places and people around them. In cases where they lose their way, let them know of people they can meet to them tell that they have lost their way and places they can go to till you are available to pick them.
- Go over do’s and don’ts: When you would not be around with your kids, always try to go over every instruction you have given them on strangers. Always remind them of where they can go to or people they can talk to when you are not around. This helps them to form a mental barrier that helps them decide who is safe and who is not according to the instructions you have given to them.
- Establish guidelines for using public toilets: Help them to be self aware of this and teach them to be able to attend to themselves without extra attention or help from unknown or unverified persons whose intentions may or may not be pure.
Reassure your children and don’t make
them too paranoid as it might affect them in socializing with their age group
and also make them isolated from people generally. Inasmuch as you want them to
be security conscious, you need to strike a balance so it doesn’t affect other
aspects of their love.