While “stranger danger” was drilled into you during your childhood, the method for keeping kids safe has changed. “Tricky people” are the new strangers and parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about “tricky people” and how to spot them.
The limitation of the stranger danger message is that it implies that strangers are bad and everyone else is okay. The problem with this is that in some cases children do need to talk to strangers (e.g. a police officer if they are lost). And the sad reality is that not all offenders are strangers. The child protection charity, Bravehearts, estimates that in 70-90% of cases of child sex abuse, the offender is someone the child knows. The tricky person concept gives kids the tools to spot someone who has ill intentions, by using cues and empowering them to trust their intuition.
Beware adults asking for help
If an adult needs help, they will always ask another adult for help, not a child. In this case, two kids were asked by a group of strangers to help them convince their friend to see a Doctor.
Pay attention to funny feelings in your tummy
Whether you call them funny feelings or butterflies in the tummy or something else, it is what we as adults know as our intuition or gut instinct. Kids don’t know what this is yet but teach them to listen to those feelings. If they are talking to someone or approached by someone and they get those funny feelings, that person might be a tricky person.
Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable doing
Children should be taught that their body is their own and no one can touch it without their permission. This should also extend to not forcing children to hug or kiss anyone, even family members. Teach kids that if a tricky person is trying to touch them in a way they feel uncomfortable with, or making them do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable (e.g. walking away with them to a car) then they can and should say no.
Never ever keep secrets
Every family should have the rule that there are no secrets allowed. If a person is asking your child to keep secrets from you, your child should know that it is completely safe to tell you about this, no matter how embarrassing or “big” the secret might be. Tricky people will often ask children to keep secrets, perhaps small ones initially to test the waters. Always ensure an open communication channel with our kids so they feel comfortable talking about anything with you.
Where to seek safety
If at any time your children don’t feel safe, they have a funny feeling in their tummy, or they think they might be talking to a tricky person, teach them to seek immediate safety. A police officer won’t always be around, so in your absence, encourage them to look for another mum with kids to approach or alternatively, Patti from Safely Ever After encourages kids to freeze and yell.
Introducing the tricky people concept to your kids is one you should do over time. Gradually talk to your kids about their personal safety. While you are driving the car is a good non-confrontational place to start the conversation, but make sure you talk about the topic often and re-iterate the signs of a tricky person and what your child should do if they ever feel unsafe or threatened.
How do you talk to your kids about tricky people?
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