What should we teach children about strangers?
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G. T. Shedd
Safety and security are the prime worries of every parent. The nature of the worry may differ, depending on whether your child is a toddler or a teenager, but it prevails. Parents tremble from within with every untoward incident that is reported, and at the same time equally fear the many that go unreported. It is not possible to be with our child at all times, and therefore it is very essential to teach them the necessary skills to look after themselves and be safe. Sometimes however parents either over-protect or let the child become vulnerable. There must be a balance between caution and being carefree. It is important for us as parents to equip our child very firmly and with a positive attitude.
What must the children know?
Children must understand the basic difference between remaining safe and becoming paranoid.
A lot of parents, in their intent to protect, drive their children to acute paranoia due to their own fears. Such children are not only ill-equipped to handle themselves, but also grow up as shaky individuals. Instilling fear is not the idea, building confidence is.
It is not a big bad world. Life is beautiful, why then should we believe that the world is not! Everything is not as gloomy as the reports, but one must know what to watch out for. There are good people and there are bad people. Children must know how to tell them apart.
What are the signs that they must learn to recognize?
• An adult/stranger asks them for help, for finding a lost object, or directions to a place. This is not normal, because, adults must seek help from adults.
• An ordinary and ‘nice’ looking person walks up and tries to become friendly. This is just plain unusual.
• A person, even a lady whom no one knows around the colony wants to invite the child
• Anybody who is noticing the child, even from a distance with no clear reason
• People in the child’s playground who are not accompanied by their own children
• A friendly looking man offering sweets and candy
• A sudden frantic messenger telling the child to come with him
• Anyone offering a ride to the child
• Anyone trying to touch the child
When the child feels unsafe, what should he do?
• The safe places to take help from are: restaurants, policemen, immediate neighbours
• Walk away when they see anyone unusual approaching or lurking around them
• Refuse the adult’s invite or lift confidently, and raise an alarm if the adult does not back off
• Always play with others in a group and never alone
• Openly share anything out of the usual with the parents or care giver and not keep to himself
• Be in touch with your child at all times, even if you are away at work
• Accompany the child as often as you can, to the park
• Instill confidence in your child
• Encourage openness
• Help children to develop courage and do not scare them
• Inculcate the life saving skill of identifying and trusting ones instincts
• Encourage playing with others especially if your child likes to play on his own
• Let them be independent but at the same time, seek permission for what they want to do
Teaching children how to look after themselves is a skill necessary for living. It is not just about potential dangers to them, but towards society as a whole. Only those who can take care of themselves can take care of others and become responsible citizens. If we all strive to become a powerful and robust individual, we may succeed in making our cities safe.
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