Overcoming Stranger Danger

Now in the days of “Stranger Danger” how do we bring safety and community back to our neighborhoods?  The first step may be to take “Stranger Danger out of our vocabulary. Kids DO need to know how to stay safe with people when they are on their own away from their adults even for a minute - and their parents and teachers DO need to know what actions to take, what words to say after something bad has happened, and how to teach their kids in ways that empower them rather than traumatize them with the fear of the strangers.

Here are a few tips for sharing with the youth in your life to make this summer a little safer:

1.       A stranger is just someone you don't know well. Lots of people are strangers to you - and you are a stranger to them. Let's think of people you know well and of people who are familiar but are still strangers, such as the mail delivery person, many people at school, and people living in our neighborhood.

2.       Most people are good, and this means that most strangers are good. In fact, as we get older, most of the people who are most important to us used to be strangers. A few people sometimes do unsafe things - just like some animals sometimes do unsafe things.

3.       The rules are different when you are with your adults or when you are on your own. Let's think of examples of when you are on your own for a few minutes, even if your adult is close by.

4.       When you are on your own, move away and check first if a stranger tries to approach you. Check First before letting a stranger get close to you, talk with you, get you to go somewhere, or give you anything, even your own things. Who would you Check First with at home? What about at school? What about after school? If you don't have an adult with you to Check First with, Think First about where you are, how this stranger is behaving, and who else is around who might help you.

5.       Check First with your adults before you change your plan about going anywhere with anyone, even with people you know. Check First or Think First before opening your door to someone you are not expecting. Make a list with children about people they can go with without checking first but remind them that you still want to know if the plans change about where they are going and what they are doing. The younger the child is, the shorter this list should be. Make sure that kids know how to contact you, including your mobile phone number.

6.       The rules are different in emergencies. Let's make sure you have a safety plan for how to get help, including from strangers, everywhere you go.

7.       And now, Let's PRACTICE! Once kids understand what the rules are, make sure that they have the skills to follow these rules. Keep reinforcing these skills in daily life until they become habits.

When children have the opportunity for successful practice of safety skills presented in an upbeat way, they almost always become less worried, more confident, more competent, and better prepared to take charge of their safety. When they are ready, our goal must be to encourage our children to be out and about in the world without us, having the joy of exploring new places and meeting new people on their own.


Additional Resources

Helping Children Regain Their Emotional Safety After A Tragedy

Stranger Safety Resource Page

Kidpower Safety Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Safety for Kids on Their Way to School

Strangers at School

A Sex Offender Is Living in Our Neighborhood! HELP!


Monthly Messages are brought to you by:

The Community Coalition for Healthy Youth

Each monthly message is provided by coalition board members. If you have further questions or comments about this message or would like information on how to become involved with the Community Coalition for Healthy Youth, please email ahendrix@tompkins-co.org


Thank you in advance for sharing this monthly message with your networks.

  Community Coalition for Healthy Youth

320 W. State/MLK Jr. Street

Ithaca NY 14850



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