Instilling Stranger-Danger in Your Child

Dr. Jeffrey I. Dolgan, Ph.D., senior psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, provides advice for parents in light of the tragedy of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway’s abduction from the Denver Metro Area. Parents can use the following tips to help keep themselves calm and their children safe.

How can parents protect their child’s safety?

  • As saddening as Jessica’s story is, keep in mind that abductions are statistically unlikely.
  • Sign your kids up for a self-defense class (if available).
  • Reiterate common stranger-danger tips (e.g. don’t talk to strangers, stay in a group, always tell your parents where you’re going and who you’re with, etc.).
  • Teach kids to be alert and pay attention to what’s going on around them.
  • If you give your child a cell phone for emergencies, remember to be clear about how and when to use it.
  • Get to know your neighbors, and keep an eye on who might seem suspicious.
  • Talk to children about the difference between good touching and bad touching.
  • Tell kids to listen to their instincts. If a situation makes them nervous or scared, leave as quickly as possible. They could go to a house where someone is home, or run into a very public area with lots of people around.
  • Work with trusted neighbors to put together a big group of kids who can walk to and from school together.

What are the most important skills for children, when it comes to stranger-danger?

Emphasize the importance of self-reliance, self-defense, and to scream as loud as possible if your child feels in danger. Also explain how important it is to fight back.

How should I teach my child to react to dangerous situations?

Children, especially young children, don’t always know how to apply the things they learned in the classroom to a real-life situation (studies related to gun control have shown this). It’s good for parents to role-play with their children. Set up a situation where a fake abductor comes along and see if your child will react the way he or she should. Stop the scenario and ask you child what he should do, and applaud him if he implements the correct behavior. Children learn well in these role-playing situations…

Read more: Children’s Hospital Colorado


Back to top