How to Talk to Kids About Strangers
It’s amazing how little young children know about strangers and how to stay safe. And much of what they do know is incorrect, or simply intended to scare them.
Kids want and need to know what to DO in dangerous situations, but are usually only told to what NOT to do. (Don’t talk to strangers; don’t get in the car with strangers, etc.) Even the multitude of children’s picture books about strangers (most aimed at the 8-12 year old age group) often fail to teach kids what they CAN do if they find themselves confronted with a stranger.
Stranger Danger – How to Talk to Kids About Strangers is different. It is a how-to book is for parents and caregivers of children ages 3-8. Using techniques developed over decades of teaching young children, author Kristi Porter takes into consideration the unique thinking, and learning styles of this younger age group, offering parents a new way to talk to their kids about strangers without scaring them.
This easy to read, step by step guide gives parents age appropriate words and activities to use with even the youngest of children. Covering everything from who is a stranger, to when and how to fight back, Stranger Danger – How to Talk to Kids About Strangers is a must read guide for today’s parents.
Kristi Porter has over twenty-five years of experience working with young children, both as a preschool teacher, and as an award winning child care provider. She holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and Development, as well as a national Child Development Associate Credential. In 1999, she was awarded the Governor’s Quality Care Award for her outstanding commitment to the care and education of young children.
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Why did you write this book?
Early in my teaching career, while putting together a unit about child safety for my class, I came across a statistic that stated: “In the majority of small child, stranger kidnapping cases, the child is simply taken by the hand and led quietly away.” I wasn’t sure that I agreed with that statistic, and decided to put it to the test.
With the parents’ permission, I arranged to conduct a simple ‘stranger test’ at the annual springtime family picnic. Held at a popular local playground, twenty-four children (ages 2-8) and their parents attended. While the assistant teachers supervised the children, I called the parents aside and explained how the ‘stranger test’ would work.
An adult unknown to the children would simply walk up to them, take their hand and lead them away toward the parking lot. If the child asked where they were going, the ‘stranger’ would simply tell them there was some candy in the car, and that the child could have some if they wanted it. When they reached the car, (in full view of the playground and parents) the ‘stranger’ would simply tell the child that they ran out of candy, show them an empty candy bag, and return the child to the playground. If at any time the child resisted or became frightened, the ‘stranger’ would immediately let go and move away.
The parents were to stay on the sidelines and observe, agreeing to not punish their child if indeed they did walk away with one of the ‘strangers’. This was to be a teachable moment – one that children, parents, and teachers would all discuss together at the end of the day. While many of the parents commented they didn’t think their child would ever walk away with someone they didn’t know, all agreed to allow their child to participate.
I called in my ‘stranger’ volunteers – one young adult male, and one middle aged female. Both were teachers in another program and unknown to the children or their parents.
I stood with the parents at the edge of the playground and watched with astonishment as one by one, almost half of the children simply walked away with one of the ‘strangers’!
Over the course of an afternoon, 11 children accompanied a ‘stranger’ to the car – with no resistance, not even a glance back over their shoulder. They simply held hands and walked away – for nothing more than the promise of candy. Of the remaining children, only one became visibly frightened and was immediately returned to their parent. The others simply pulled their hand away and ran off to play with their friends. Only four of them reported the ‘stranger’ to a teacher or parent.
This experiment really opened my eyes about how young children view strangers, and why Stranger Danger Programs often fail. Since that day twenty-five years ago, I’ve made it my mission to help teach young kids to stay safe. I’ve used the methods in this book with hundreds of kids ages 3-7, and I’m happy to report that many of my earliest students (who are now adults) tell me that they still remember the lessons they learned about strangers, and want to know how to use those same methods to teach their children how to stay safe.
So it is for those first students, now parents themselves, that I’ve put this book together.
And I have a question for the readers too. How did you have that talk about strangers with your kids, or if yours are still unborn or very young, how do you plan on having that talk?