Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Protecting Your Family From Trafficking - Stranger Danger

When my kiddos were little, we started teaching them about stranger danger and we did "practice drills" to enforce our teachings.  My husband would explain that he was just pretending to be a stranger, but they needed to do to him what they would do to a stranger if they felt threatened.

Needless to say, right before these "drills", he always looked nervous.  Because who wants to be bitten, hit and screamed at?

Once school started, with bus stops and field trips and such, we started talking to the kids about who they are allowed to go with and what to tell strangers if they are approached by them, even if what the stranger is promising sounds fun, like a new puppy or dessert.

But the thing about kids is that they have a mind of their own.  And they don't always choose to obey us.  We once had to stay in a hotel as a family for a funeral that was out of town.  My husband, three kiddos and I stayed in one room.  I am not a morning person and neither is my youngest child.  So, in the monring, my husband and two older children snuck out of the room to get breakfast, leaving me and our youngest in the hotel room sleeping.

When I woke up, no one was there, which was very unsettling.  A few minutes later my husband and kiddos came back.  He told me that our youngest had gotten up, not waken me up, and left the room.  Standing in the hallway by herself, another hotel guest came out of their room and talked to her and offered to take her to the lobby.  And, she went.

After all those talks, practice drills, etc., she still went.  Thankfully, she was safe and the stranger was friendly.  My point is we can guard our children so much - we can teach them so much - but our children are still out of our control sometimes.  No matter what, I think it was still valuable to talk to them and do those practice drills and we continue to have "stranger danger" conversations to this day. 

Here's how this relates to trafficking.  Horribly enough, the average age of entry of an American into human trafficking is 14 years old, but predators often look for children as young as 4, or younger.  As parents, it is important that we teach our children about steering clear of strangers because we just never know, and we want them to be as protected as possible.  Here are some tips that might be helpful to you as you teach your children about stranger danger.

Tips for Your Child:
  1. Teach your child what a stranger is.  A stranger is someone your family does not know well.
  2. Don't judge a book by its cover.  Not all dangerous strangers are scary looking.  Traffickers are well known for looking safe and making sweeping promises of luxury. In the same, way, not all strangers are bad strangers.  It is okay for your child to know that most strangers are okay.
  3. Teach your child who a safe stranger is.  There may be times, like if they are lost or hurt, and without you, that your child may need to look to a stranger for help.  Coach them that in public places, firefighters, police, teachers and principals are safe.
  4. Keep it public. - Tell your child that if they need to ask for help, to make sure they do it in a public place with lots of faces to see them.  And, if they are being approached by a stranger or anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable in a non-public place, the situation should not be trusted.  
  5. Code time - Create a family code that only trusted adults would know.  If there is an adult who wants your child to go with them, they have to know the family code.  No code, no go.
  6. Teach your children about suspicious behaviors.  Giving your children tools to know if someone is potentially dangerous is so helpful in this situation.  Teaching them that someone who asks them to disobey you, asks them for help, tells them to keep a secret from you or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way is someone they should not trust and should tell you about right away.  
  7. "No, Go, Yell, Tell" - When your child experiences anything similar to the situations described in #6, teach them "no" - tell the stranger no, "go" - leave, "yell" - yell and make lots of noise to attract attention, and "tell" - go tell an adult they can trust about what happened.
  8. No speak - Teach your child that they don't have to speak to or acknowledge a stranger at all.
  9. Practice - Run through possible scenarios with your children so they understand the kinds of situations they should be uncomfortable with.  Here are a few examples.
    • A nice-looking stranger approaches your child in the park and asks for help finding the stranger's lost dog.
    • A woman who lives in your neighborhood but that the child has never spoken to invites your child into her house for a snack.
    • A stranger asks if your child wants a ride home from school.
    • Your child thinks he or she is being followed.
    • An adult your child knows says or does something that makes him or her feel bad or uncomfortable.
    • While your child is walking home from a friend’s house, a car pulls over and a stranger asks for directions.*
Tips for You:
  1. Instill confidence instead of fear when talking to your child about stranger danger.
  2. Teach your child it is okay to say NO to adults when they are uncomfortable.
  3. Know where your children are all the time.
  4. Encourage your child to play with others.  The safety in numbers lesson speaks loud and clear here.
  5. Point out safe places and boundaries for your children.
  6. Teach them to trust their instincts.  If something feels weird to them, it is because it is weird.  Tell them that they can their feelings and that they should tell you if they feel uncomfortable with something.  
  7. Keep it relaxed.  This is a terrifying subject for us as parents, but it doesn't need to come across as terrifying to our children.  Teach them these things just as you would teach them about pool safety and crossing the road.  It's all to keep them safe just in case.

Any other tips you  have used or have proven helpful in your family?  Please share.


  1. Liz Pifer, Edinboro, PAMay 14, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    These are all very helpful tips. In my family, we have practiced all of these and practiced the scenario where both of my sons or a small group of kids may be together and approached by a stranger. Often a younger child will be targeted even with an older sibling or group of children present. In that situation, sometimes the actions of kids can be different as they don't know who to lead them. I also heard on the news that adults may not always acknowledge a scream of "HELP" and screaming "FIRE" in a public place can be more useful to catch attention. Whatever it takes to keep them safe or if needed to be rescued. Thank you for posting this information on Stranger Danger. It's extremely important no matter what area you live in to raise a street smart child.

    1. Those are great tips, Liz. Thank you for sharing. I hadn't considered someone approaching a group of kids before. I like the idea of teaching my oldest how to lead.