How to talk to your kids about stranger danger

Domenic Fazioli/Global News

MONTREAL — In light of reports of recent attempts to lure children in LaSalle and Chateauguay, Quebec’s Missing Children’s Network is urging parents to talk about safety with their children.

“The fact that stranger abductions are rare is of little comfort to parents and the community,” the agency said in a statement.

“Parents must remain aware that such dangers are a constant reality.”

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Worried about frightening children, or destroying their natural sense of joy, many parents hesitate about talking about the possible risk of abuse and abduction. However, the Missing Children’s Network said it believes safety education actually helps build a child’s confidence and critical thinking skills.

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“It prepares them for dangerous situations that they may encounter when home alone, surfing the net, travelling to-and-from school or getting lost in public places,” the organization noted.

Here are eight important things the Missing Children’s Network recommends parents discuss with their children:

What’s your name, address and telephone number?

Should children ever get lost or need to reach their parents in an emergency, they will need this personal information in order to obtain help.

Ask for permission before going anywhere

Parents should always know where their children are. The Missing Children’s Network recommends creating a place in the house where every member of the family can leave messages.

There’s safety in numbers

A child that is accompanied by a friend is less likely to be approached by an individual with questionable intentions. Parents should get to know their children’s friends, their parents and other adults who spend time with their children.

Keep a safe distance

Parents should make sure children understand that they do not have to engage in conversation with adults that approach them. Children should always keep a safe distance of at least three giant steps between themselves and someone they don’t know or who make them feel uncomfortable. If someone ever grabs a child or tries to force them into a vehicle, parents should teach children to shout:

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Know where to go for help

Parents are advised to teach children to always stay on the designated route when walking to and from school. They should also help children to identify safe havens along the route, like a Block Parent, offices, fast food outlets, telephones where he can call 911, where they can seek refuge if they ever need help.

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Have a secret family password

Choose a password that is known only to parents and children. Children then must always ask for this password before leaving with someone who claims to have been sent in place of a parent.

What about labelling children’s belongings?

Avoid identifying items, like lunch boxes, t-shirts, school bags, with children’s names clearly visible. Children respond more readily to a stranger if they are addressed by name.

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Play “What if” scenarios

The Missing Children’s Network said that role-playing “what if” scenarios can be a valuable educational tool, as it fosters children’s ability to develop problem-solving skills that will enable them to adopt sound safety habits for life.

Here are a few of the organization’s scenario suggestions:

  • You’re walking home from school and someone in a car stops to ask you for directions. What do you do?
  • It’s raining and you’re waiting for your school bus. The mother of a student in your class offers to drive you home. What do you do?
  • You’re walking back from school and a neighbour invites you to his home in order to see his new puppy. What do you do?
  • You’re at the mall and an elderly person asks for your help to choose a gift for her grandson. What do you do?
  • Your best friend asks you if you would accompany her to meet a very cool friend she met online. What do you do?

For more information visit the Missing Children’s Network website.

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