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The world can be big, scary, and dangerous. While there are good people out there who will warm your heart, it can be just as important to know what to do when you meet someone who isn't so nice. AnxiousToddlers.com is a website dedicated to giving parents support, guidance and advice from toddlers to teens, run by a child therapist with a soft spot for anxious children.
She knows that "stranger danger" doesn't always describe it well. Sometimes being careful around strangers isn't always enough... it isn't always a stranger, and a child doesn't always know he or she is in danger. So, here are some tips that the author of AnxiousToddlers has shared for parents to teach and do with their children in the hopes that you'll never really need them.
1. Teach your kids that if someone in a car is following them, they should run in the opposite direction. This will buy them a few seconds as the car turns around.
2. Teach your kids to never keep "body secrets." If someone tells them to keep a secret involving body parts, teach them to tell you immediately.
3. Make up a code word with your children and then give them some power. Teach them to use it when they are away from you and in an unsafe situation. When you hear the code word, immediately go get them.
4. You can also use that codeword to train your kids to leave an unsafe situation. Teach them that, if they hear it, there's a safety threat nearby and they should quickly exit or get down somewhere safe.
5. Danger can often come from familiar faces who know your children and your family. If someone doesn't know the code word, teach your children that they shouldn't go alone with that person.
6. Throw out personalized backpacks, accessories, lunch boxes, et cetera. Don't plaster your child's name all over her property for everyone around to read; children are more likely to trust someone who knows their names.
7. Teach your children that just because someone knows their names doesn't mean they've met that person before.
8. Teach your kids that, if they ever find themselves lost or unsafe, look for a mom with kids. Police officers and familiar faces aren't always available, so teaching your children who's more likely to be safe could save critical seconds when they're in danger.
9. Teach your kids to trust their gut instincts.
10. Teach your kids "body safety" - know the warning signs of sexual abuse, and teach it early. If they can recognize it, they might be able to tell you even if it's someone you thought was safe, and they might be able to tell you before it's been going on for far too long.