For decades now, parents have been preaching ‘stranger danger’ to a generation of children, while at the same time ignoring the reality right in front of them.
Strangers aren’t really the people we need to worry about.
Look, we don’t mean to be fear mongers, but the truth is that the world just isn’t as safe as it used to be. Hell, it might not even have been safe then. Then, we rationalised our environment to make it seem safe, just like we do now with ‘stranger danger.’ Parents, you need to know these things.
“Stranger Danger” is useless.
The problem with stranger danger is that it just isn’t representative of actually trends about child molesters and abuse. In reality, children are far more likely to be interfered with by a person they already know, or by someone who has manipulated the relationship to make the child trust them. In both cases, they aren’t strangers. Yet for some reason, we still fear the weirdo at the park scenario, never thinking that all that weirdo would need to do is introduce himself to your child and BAM, he’s no longer a stranger.
A safe stranger
Now, it’s highly likely that there will be an instance where your child will need to approach a stranger. For example, they get lost at a shopping centre. Under the teachings of stranger danger, there’s nothing they can do but stand there and freak out.
So it’s time to move on from danger into strangers that are safe to talk to. For kids, the best one to teach is a mother with kids. Any child can identify a mum with her kids, and it’s easy for a child to approach a mum, explain that they’re lost, and ask for her assistance. Mums are almost always happy to help, and natural maternal instincts make them more likely to keep track of the child until they’re reunited with their family.
It makes sense to be aware of child molesters and abuse if you have children. It’s a harsh reality, but so is life.
Although it can be hard for them to understand, it’s also necessary for your child to be aware of the threats, but ‘stranger danger’ is not the way to do this. Instead, teach your children to be careful of ‘tricky people.’
Who are tricky people?
When you talk to your children about tricky people, it’s easy to describe them in a way that is easy for your child to understand, and easy for you to make clear why they aren’t safe.
Tricky people are adults who ask children for help, or tell them to keep a secret from their parents. Keeping a secret includes not telling mum or dad where you’re going, and it’s important that kids understand they should never go anywhere with any adult without permission from their parents.
Any adult? Surely that’s not the best way to look at it.
Turns out, it is.
A child is far more likely to be abused by someone who they already have a relationship with because most abuse cases follow extended periods of grooming. Children are the focus of that grooming, but in some cases, families are groomed as well. Children who are flying under their parent’s radar, are disconnected from their parents or are insecure are most at risk.
Pay attention to who is paying attention.
As a parent, it’s often difficult to know what to look for, and what behaviours constitute red flags indicative of abuse or molestation. Most parents simply don’t want to think about it, but there are things you need to be looking out for, and behaviours among the adults around you that indicate inappropriateness. Some of these include:
- An adult trying to arrange time alone with your child, and works to exclude you with reasons and excuses.
- Someone who singles out one child as being ‘special’ and lavishes them with attention, praise and gifts.
- A person who offers frequent ‘favours’ involving the child under the guise of helping you out. The reality is that people without children rarely offer babysitting or overnight trips with children just to be nice.
- An adult who is constantly physical with a child, i.e. hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling or lapsitting, even if the child is not happy with this.
These are just a few of the behaviours, but you can find a full list here. We encourage you to read through it carefully, and keep it in mind.
Educate your children.
The key message here is to educate your kids. Obviously, your message needs to be age appropriate, and something that they can understand. But children of all ages can be educated about the basics. Tricky people is a good place to start, as is a proper education into the anatomical names for genitalia. Both make a difference in keeping your child safe as they navigate the world.