Speaking With Your Kids About Stranger Safety and More

Hannah Cline's picture
By Hannah Cline on October 28, 2016

Many families look forward to Halloween’s pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating and spooky costumes. While the holiday is full of festive fun, parents can make sure their children maximize their Halloween experience by helping them to stay safe no matter what the night brings.

On Carilion Clinic Living, we have talked about the importance of visibility and car safety. One other topic important not to overlook, however, is stranger safety.

While a majority of young parents grew up learning about “stranger danger,” some experts say that there’s more to stranger safety than that.

“While stranger danger seems like a simple way to teach children about stranger safety, it also has some disadvantages,” said Carilion Clinic Police Captain, Ed Watkins. “We want to be sure that if a child needs help, they know that some people– like a store clerk, police officer or another parent with children – are people who could potentially help them.”

To best get that point across, try swapping out the following phrases when talking to your child:

1. Replace: Never talk to strangers With: Don’t talk to just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, store clerk in a uniform or with a nametag or another parent with children.
2. Replace: Stay away from people you don’t know. With: Make sure to ask my permission before going anywhere with anyone.
3. Replace: You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them. With: Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable or tried to get you to go with them.
During Halloween, it is recommended that children under the age of 12 should have adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, remind them to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
Of course, stranger safety should not be limited to just Halloween. It is important to have these conversations whenever you can with your children, and not just in regards to strangers. It has been reported by the CDC that a majority of child abuse occur not with a stranger, but with someone the child knows. That is why it is crucial to let your child know to reach out to you if anyone ever makes them feel uncomfortable, especially if it is someone they already know. 

Use the safety tips above to get the conversation started anytime and check out safekids.org/safetytips for more information and other safety tips.