You can teach your kid how to differentiate between safe and unsafe people by playing the “Stranger Adventure” game. In this game, which you can play with your child anytime, anywhere, you simply observe the people around you and talk about them.
This isn’t about being catty or making snarky comments about people; it’s about teaching your child how to critically observe them for signs that they appear safe. As you and your child watch people and talk about your impressions of them, make it a clear that she should focus mainly on their actions and body language, looking for clues that a particular person deserves extra scrutiny and caution. For example, help her note when someone looks angry or aggressive, which may indicate a controlling or volatile personality, or if she feels weirded out by someone who leers at women or children as they pass.
By closely watching people’s behavior, your child will learn that just because someone is wearing a suit doesn’t automatically mean he’s trustworthy, any more than a person wearing a hoodie and sporting multiple body piercings means she’s dangerous. Put simply, it’s how a person makes her feel that counts the most, and you should validate those feelings when she shares them and talk about the clues she picked up on that prompted those feelings.
Use role-playing to help her think through how she would react if approached by one of those people. Depending on your child’s age, you can say, “I can see why that person makes you feel creeped out. I sense that too. If he tried to talk to you and you felt uncomfortable, you could say something like, ‘My mom’s waiting for me. I have to go.’ Or, if he was making your feel afraid, you could even yell for me and run away as fast you can to a safe person.”
Let your child think through what she would do in each situation. Listen to her full answer and validate her impressions. If necessary, help her tweak her responses to ensure they’re on target and effective.
Playing the Stranger Adventure game with your child will:
- Train her to be situationally aware of her environment and the people in it.
- Help her not to make automatic judgments about people based merely on their appearance.
- Teach her to remain vigilant and open to new information about people that may change her feelings about them and require her to alter her own actions in response.
- Exercise her growing ability to listen to and act on her intuition.
- Teach her how to set and defend strong physical and emotional boundaries.
- Remind her who she might go to for help if she needs it.
- Enable her to feel greater confidence when encountering strangers, knowing she can trust herself to know when someone or something doesn’t feel right, and that she can take steps to avoid or get away from them.
Be the parent your child deserves!
the Badass Grandma
CJ Scarlet, aka the Badass Grandma, is a danger expert and the bestselling author of Badass Parenting, Heroic Parenting, and The Badass Girl’s Guide: Uncommon Strategies to Outwit Predators.
About Badass Parenting
In Badass Parenting: Prepare Your Kids to Deal with Danger without Scaring the Hell out of Them, danger expert CJ Scarlet helps parents teach their children how to avoid and handle themselves in scary situations ranging from bullying and digital dangers to sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and kidnapping.
After reading this book, you’ll feel more knowledgeable and confident in your ability to talk candidly with your child at her age and maturity level without scaring her to death. It’s time to ditch the worry and get some sleep!
Edgy, funny, and irreverent, this unputdownable book (with TONS of downloadable bonus content!) is the new bible for parents looking to raise safe, savvy, confident kids.
“Finally, a book about parenting that doesn’t scare the crap out of you!!!! We live in one of the safest times to be alive, and yet, most of us are terrified. Parents – especially so. It is refreshing to have a book that realistically looks at the real dangers our kids face and help us – (a) not freak out, (b) figure out how to help our kids deal with the risks without traumatizing them, and (c) does so while making us laugh! A trifecta. I honestly wish CJ Scarlet’s book existed when my son was younger. I would have handed it out to every freaked-out parent I met at every mommy and me playdate I went to. Parenting is hard enough; we don’t need to generate extra unnecessary hysteria. This book will help you realistically face the dangers of parenting (real or imagined) with love and humor. Thank you, CJ!”
Jennifer Hancock, author of The Bully Vaccine