ABCs of Back to School: School Safety

August 24, 2010 The big topic we always hear about is "stranger danger." But there's a trend away from teaching kids just the phrase stranger danger, why?

Children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might, so the "stranger-danger" message is not effective.

Practice "what if" situations and ask your children how they would respond.

Some of the most common "stranger" scenarios to practice with your kids:

Someone who walks to your child asking for help to find a lost dog or cat?

Suggestion: This is an example of someone appealing to the child to want to help. We need to teach them to just say no, get away and tell an adult. An adult should not be approaching a child for assistance. They should seek assistance from other adults. When the child does know there really is a lost animal, they can look with their own parent.

Someone who comes up to your child and offers them things like candy?

Suggestion: Using candy as an example, but it could be anything. It doesn't matter. This is an issue, the concept we teach is that children should check first with a parent or a trusted adult before they accept anything that is offered to them, get away, go talk to the adult, find out if you have permission. Again, check first and then you can accept it or not accept it.

If your child is home alone after school and someone is knocking at the door?

Suggestion: Sometimes the caller can be very persistent and knock loudly, ringing the doorbell repeatedly. The child has to have a plan, and mom and dad has to talk to them before this happens. You want them to ignore the door. Don't answer the door if they're home alone, likewise with the phone. If they answer the phone, what do they say when they answer the phone? They don't want to disclose that mom or dad are not home. Also when they're home alone, do they have a way to contact you if there is a problem, if there is an emergency, do he they know 911, the protocol how to activate it and what is going to be expected of them at that time?

Children should know when they're uncomfortable, and parents' job is to let them know if someone is making them uncomfortable, they should tell a trusted adult.

Some safety tips for families for mapping out a safe route to walk to school

- Parents should walk the route to school or bus stop with children first
- identify helpful businesses or homes
- check your school or city's website for "school walk routes"

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