Stranger Danger: Teaching Your Children to be Safe

Teaching children about “stranger danger” is about teaching the possible dangers they may face as they are out in the world. But, this is not as simple as saying, “Don’t talk to strangers.” I tell children that it is safe to talk to strangers when they are with a grownup they know (such as when a child is with Mom at the Stranger at parkgrocery store and the nice older woman asks what her name is).

We need to teach our children to be functionally weary of strangers. It’s important that your children feel confident rather than fearful. Having information will help them know what to do rather than being afraid if a stranger approaches them.

 

Educating children on good vs. bad strangers

Kids should be taught that not all people they don’t know are dangerous. They need to know the difference between “good strangers” and “bad strangers”. They should know that there really are more good people than bad. Sometimes, kids may need to approach a stranger for help. They may get lost in a store and need help finding you. Teach your children about the best possible stranger to approach for help.

When in public, a good rule of thumb is to teach children to ask an employee (who is easily identified by a uniform or name badge). If your child cannot find an employee, or is not lost in a store, he is better off approaching a woman for help. Although female predators exist, they are less common than male predators. Also, approaching a mom with children is usually a good bet.

Ploys by Predators and What to Do

Some strangers can be persuasive. Tell your children that adults don’t usually need help from a child. It makes more sense for them to ask another adult for directions, finding a lost pet, etc. Children should be taught to never go anywhere with an adult they don’t know.

Predators can be sneaky. They may tell your child that he is a friend of yours and you sent him to pick up your child. Or, the predator may tell your child that you have been injured or are sick and the child has to come with the predator to come see you.

What to tell your child if you can’t pick him up:

  • Explain to your child that you will never send anyone he doesn’t know to pick him up. Tell him if anyone says otherwise, the person is lying and he should get away from the stranger as fast as he can.
  • If you don’t have a group of trusted people who could pick up your child in an emergency, choose a password that you will give to the person picking up your child. The password should be something important to your family that would be difficult for a stranger to guess.
  • Tell your child never to go with anyone who doesn’t know the password and change the password after each use.

9 Stranger Danger Tips to Teach Your Children

1. Know your name, address, and phone number (this will help if the child needs help from the police to get home or contact you).

2. Never walk anywhere alone (this is great for older kids too).

3. Trust your instincts. If you feel you are being followed or something is not right, find help right away.

4. If a stranger approaches you, you do not have to speak to him.

5. Never approach a stranger in a motor vehicle. Just keep walking.

6. Do not accept candy or other “presents” from a stranger.

7. Never walk off with a stranger no matter what!

8. If someone is following you, try to remember the license plate of the vehicle and tell a trusted adult right away.

9. If a stranger grabs you, do anything you can to stop him from pulling you away or dragging you into his car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite, and scream. Get the attention of others who can help you. Scream out, “This is not my dad,” or “this is not my mom!”

 

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).  Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses.  No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT  to people submitting questions.  Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

Helping Your Child Plan and Organize Their Daily Lives

The start of school brings many changes with children’s daily lives. Children must be able to transition between subjects, organizing their work, sitting at home, and independently taking the initiative to do their homework and monitor their own productivity. These above behaviors all fall under the label of “executive functioning.”

homework with mom and daughterMany children are able to complete these tasks and behaviors independently; however, a large portion of children also struggle with one or more of the behaviors and tasks. As a result, many children benefit from strategies to help develop their organization, planning, problem solving, time management, and monitoring of their work.

Parents vs. Children on Homework Assignments

As a psychologist, I often have parents inform me about constant battles that they have with their children to complete daily homework assignments. Specifically, parents often report to me that their children will do anything but start their homework (surfing the internet, texting friends from their cell phones, or watching television/playing video games).

Two major executive functioning tasks are involved with the child’s ability to complete daily homework: Initiation of action and time management. Children who demonstrate issues with their ability to complete daily homework benefit from strategies and interventions that target their ability to start and complete their work in a timely fashion.

Tips to help children complete daily homework:

  • Developing a daily “Need to” (homework, chores) and “Want to” (baseball practice, dance lessons, video game time) list of tasks
  • Prioritizing the list with estimated time requirements for each task
  • Verbally and physically prompting your child before starting each task by (e.g., “John, what is the next thing we should do?” while tapping him on the shoulder)
  • Positively reinforcing all self-initiating tasks by giving praise when your child starts a project on his/her own

Dealing With Your Child’s Forgetfulness About Assignments

Another major area of concern I hear from parents is that although their children are able to actually complete the work, they struggle with their organizational skills and will either forget about the assignments or lose the work between home and school. As a result of the difficulties with organization, all children benefit from strategies to improve this area of functioning.

Strategies that have proven to be effective with the development of a child’s organization include:

  • Structuring and scheduling designated ‘study time’ as part of your child’s daily routine.
  • Completing homework in a central location away from distracters including television, computer, telephone, and other people who might be disruptive.
  • Creating time-lines for long-term projects, breaking tasks down into basic elements with separate due dates for each task.
  • Discussing homework expectations with their teacher to determine the recommended amount of study time.

With the start of school, we want to help children be as organized as possible and ready to complete daily homework in a timely fashion. Following the above strategies and developing some of your own will ensure that your child will be more organized and less stressed!

How Social Groups Can Help Your Child Navigate Friendships

Making friends involves an array of complex skills, from taking turns, to initiating interactions, considering others’ perspectives, negotiating, problem-solving, repairingKids Group communication breakdowns, and being flexible. For many children, these skills can be incredibly challenging, often resulting in difficulty with making friends.

What are the benefits of social groups?

Social groups are designed to help children develop and practice social skills in a supportive therapeutic setting. Many children lack the necessary skills to navigate peer relationships. Social group therapy directly teaches and practices any specific social skills a child may be struggling with. For example, research has documented that children with language-impairments often have difficulty verbally initiating peer interactions. Research has also well-documented that social group therapy can increase verbal initiation for children with language impairments. Social groups have also been found to improve skills such as:

• Greetings

• Nonverbal communication (e.g. understanding facial expressions)

• Turn-taking

• Cooperative play

• Dealing with confrontation and rejection

• Flexibility and sharing

• Initiating and joining in play

• Building confidence with peers

• Listening to others

• Problem-solving and negotiation

• Verbally communicating with peers

Should my child attend a social group?

Your child should attend a social group if you have any concerns with their ability to interact with peers. Additionally, social groups can also be a proactive way to prepare your child for social settings ahead of time. For example, a “kindergarten-readiness group” is an excellent way to encourage your child’s social skills prior to the first day of school.

Here are a few indicators that your child may benefit from a social group:

• Your child’s teacher often reports difficulties interacting with peers at school

• Your child seems to avoid interacting with other children

• You notice frequent conflicts during play dates or interactions with other kids

• Your child feels afraid or refuses to attend social gatherings (e.g. play-dates, birthday parties)

• Your child has difficulty being flexible during play activities (e.g. sharing others’ ideas, winning or loosing)

• Your child has difficulty joining in play or initiating interactions with other kids

• Your child uses physical actions instead of words to communicate with others (e.g. grabs a toy instead of asking, pushes others instead of verbalizing how they feel)

• Your child has had less opportunities to interact with age-matched peers

Last but not least, trust your intuition. If you are worried about your child’s ability to navigate friendships, then consider signing your child up for a social group. Contact a licensed therapist with questions or concerns to gain more information about whether or not your child may benefit from social group therapy. Social groups can also be an excellent way to prepare your child for school or camp ahead of time.

What is the next step?

If you think your child may benefit from a social group, contact our Family Child Advocate who can answer your questions and connect you with a licensed therapist. For more information, click the Social Skills button below:

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How To Help Your Child Adjust To A New Routine, Classmates Or Classroom

We all know children respond best to routine and schedules, but it is also very important to teach your child to be flexible with change. Throughout a child’s life they will be placed in new situations and they will frequently find themselves having to change their routine and schedules, there is no avoiding it! There are ways to make it easier for your child so they can adjust to change and learn to be flexible.

Tips to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Routine

The Earlier the Better:

Start introducing your child to change as soon as you can! The more exposure they have to it, the better equipped they will be at handling it appropriately and effectively. If your child is used to change, it won’t be a big deal when it occurs in everyday life.

Plan For Positive Changes:

Pair changes with good outcomes as frequently as you can! You want to make sure you don’t allow your child to think that change results in a negative outcome. Create changes from time to time so your child is used to it and make sure that the change results in something that may be more fun or exciting. As much as we wish this were always the case, there will be times you have no control and that is why it is important to create situations that allow change to be a good thing, rather than a bad. This way if there happens to be a situation that leads to a negative outcome your child won’t always correlate change with bad.

Create Schedules:

Always create a schedule with them that emphasizes exactly what their new routine or schedule will look like. This allows the child to know in advance what they will be doing and reduces some of the anxiety they may be feeling of not knowing.

Plan New Play-dates:

If your child is meeting new classmates, create a little get together in advance so your child has the chance to meet them in a comfortable, familiar setting such as their home or a familiar park. This again will reduce some anxiety of meeting new people in a new place. The idea is to familiarize your child with as much as you can in a comfortable setting to avoid overwhelming them too much.

Visit The School:

If your child is going to a new classroom, set up visits to the school so they can visit the classroom and teacher a few times before school starts. This will familiarize him with the school and classroom so they can focus on making new friends, rather than learning where they are.

Practice New Routines:

If you are changing a routine, walk through all of the steps involved in the routine ahead of time so your child is prepared. For example, if your child is going to start taking the school bus as their routine to go to school, set them on a schedule to be ready for the bus a week before school starts and practice with them what it will be like to take the bus. For example, review where the bus will pick your child up, drop them off, etc. This will create a sense of comfort for your child to know what the expectations are in the new routine. If necessary, create a little checklist for your child that consists of each step in the routine. This will increase their independence with the routine as well as their confidence in completing it.