Stranger danger scenarios
for you to practice with your kids

What on earth are stranger danger scenarios? Well, did you know it's up to you to prepare your child to make smart judgements about the people in his or her life? Did you know that keeping your child safe from predation isn't up to chance? You can arm your child against predators by practicing stranger danger scenarios.

By the way, most sexual abuse isn't perpetrated by actual “strangers” but rather a known individual. The common wisdom of “don't talk to strangers” is not only foolish, but downright illogical in many situations. Gavin de Becker's Protecting the Gift illustrates this point and it's a must-read for all parents. For the purpose of this article, I'll use the word “stranger,” but remember that these scenarios can and should include people in all parts of your child's life, teachers, mentors, neighbors, friends and even family members.

So how can we as parents protect our kids? By teaching them to recognize behavior that is inappropriate or abnormal. Use these stranger danger scenarios to begin a dialogue with your child today.

If your child has difficulty identifying abnormal behavior, use these guidelines for identifying red flag behavior: any time anyone tries to get you

  • alone or away from other people or away from your parents or
  • to keep a secret from your parents
this is NOT normal behavior! Kenneth Wooden's Child Lures outlines eight common strategies that known sexual predators have utilized on children. Read this book to be informed and teach your kids.

Often, though, scenarios that can lead to victimization aren't clear cut and require your child's judgement. Here are some examples:

Stranger Danger Scenarios

    You're at the swimming pool with your friends and you see a man with a camera taking pictures.

Is this normal? Maybe... Ask your child to add something to this story that would make it normal (he's taking pictures of his family; he's talking to them; he has a suit on). Challenge your child to add something to the story that would make it clearly abnormal (he appears to not be with anyone; he's in the back taking pictures of the whole pool or of different subjects; he's not dressed to swim). These open ended questions encourage kids to think.

    You're waking home from school and a man says ”hello.”

Is this normal? Maybe... Again challenge your child to add something to this story that would make it normal (he keeps on going after greeting you) Ask your child to add something to the story that would make it abnormal (abnormal behavior might include: he stops and tries to engage you in further conversation; he encourages you to stray from your path home; he offers you something or an invitation).

    We're in a small store and the clerk approaches you and offers you some candy.

Is this normal? Maybe. What would make it undoubtedly normal? (He asks your mom if it's okay, he gives the candy to your mom, he somehow involves the parent). Abnormal behavior might be if he tries to get the child in a private place (“I have the candy in my office, come back here...”) or if he encourages the child to keep a secret from you.

Focus on behavior specific stranger danger and talk about examples any time you can. Create your own scenarios and discuss child safety frequently. This encourages kids to articulate normal and strange behavior so they can cultivate their own judgement and instincts.

One last thing: stop using the word “secret” in your everyday normal language. Predators use that word. It means not telling something ever. In our culture we tend to use the word rather lightly, as in, “don't tell Mom what we're giving her for her birthday; it's a secret! Actually what it is is a surprise. A surprise is usually what we mean when we use the word secret: something that we're not revealing right now, but that we will. So treat the word secret with the weight it deserves, so that kids recognize that sometimes it's a red flag.

Red Flag Behavior

Remember the two major warning signs a child should identify when interacting with a stranger: The person tries to get your child alone or the person encourages your child to keep a secret from his family
It is critical that your child be able to identify those two points because they are absolutely abnormal. Even if no inappropriate behavior takes place, a person using one or both of those “red flag behaviors” is clearly trying to establish a relationship that might lead to abuse.

Practice these stranger danger scenarios with your kids to practice looking for abnormal behavior. Encourage your child to think critically and to evaluate situations. Their judgement will be what might prevent them becoming a victim.

What's YOUR two cents?

Go to Stranger Danger Tips from Stranger Danger Scenarios