Teaching My Kids to Be Safe: Strangers

Fall is now in full swing.  I think everyone has shaken off summer and is back in a regular routine, adding pumpkin to baked goods, and getting kids to and from school.  Hayden is 4 and will be in Kindergarten next school year.  We are also just starting to put him in more extracurricular activities like soccer, gymnastics, etc.  He is getting older and more independent.  He will spend more and more time away from me and my helicopter mom eyes.  While I am a little sad he is growing up and my heart aches for those moments with my baby boy, I am so excited for him!  He is growing into such a funny, sweet, and smart boy.  I am excited for him to have more opportunities to grow and learn. 

Since he is growing up and will be away from home more, I wanted him to be prepared and teach him about strangers.  We have talked about it a little bit already, but not in depth because he was young and I didn’t want to scare him.  He has also always been with either me or my husband.  We have always known exactly where he is and what he is doing.  Now that he is older and able to understand more we have been teaching him about strangers and what to do in emergencies.  Here are a few things that helped my husband and I teach him about “strangers.”

PicMonkey Collage Strangers

-“Tricky People:”  While I have been calling people who may want to hurt or take him “strangers,” I have found that this is not the best thing to call them.  Calling them “tricky people,” is much better because any adult who is being “tricky” could be dangerous.  For example, a “tricky person” may ask a child for help (an adult always asks another adult for help, not a child), or ask them to not tell their parents something. Asking kids to do something without telling their mom first is “tricky.”  Teach your kids not to do or go anywhere, with any adult ever, unless they can ask for your permission first.

It is also important to stress that “tricky people,” could be anyone!  I asked Hayden what he thought “tricky people” may look like and he immediately started to describe someone who looked like a villain and scary.  Not all strangers or tricky people will look scary.  People who don’t look scary or pretty looking people could be just as dangerous.

-The Uh-Oh Feeling and “No!”:  Teach them to trust their instincts, or that “uh-oh,” feeling.  Any situation that makes them feel uncomfortable is ok to say “NO!”; even to an adult.  Sometimes it is ok to say “NO!“

While I want Hayden to still be respectful and kind, I want him to be empowered by the word “NO!”  He has my permission to say “NO,” or to be rude and say “I don’t know you! Get away from me!”  I really liked the strategy “No-Go-Yell-Tell” that I found from the National Crime Prevention Association.  l) Say NO if someone tries to touch him/her or makes him/her feel scared or uncomfortable, 2) GO quickly way from the situation, 3) YELL as loudly as they can and 4) TELL a trusted adult.  Saying “NO” to an adult, yelling, even indoors and running away in dangerous situations will help keep them safe. 

It is a good idea to practice a few situations with your kids, so in an emergency they can already know what to do. 

-It’s ok to fight back and “safe strangers:” I have told Hayden that if someone grabs him this is the time to yell, hit, kick, bite, and then run to get away.  Running into a public place and identifying a police man, fire fighter, teacher, or even another mom with children are safe people to tell to ask for help.  While you are out and about quickly practicing who would be an ok “stranger,” to trust is good practice for emergency situations.

-Using a family code word: When I was a kid my family used a special “Code Word,” to know who we could trust.  For example, someone might say “Your mom is really hurt and in the hospital we need to go see her!”  Hayden should then ask for the code word to know if it is really an emergency and if he should go with that person.  If the person doesn’t know the code word they can NOT be trusted and he should then use the “No-Go-Yell-Tell” strategy.  The code word should be unique and ONLY your family should know.  When I got older the code word was to signal to my parents I was in a situation and I needed out immediately.  I could call them say the code word and they would come get me. 

– Giving our Kids Control:  I loved this tip from life360.com!  Like I said earlier I am a helicopter mom and am glued to my kids when they are out playing.  Instead going into “helicopter mom mode” I should let my kids have a little more control by simply changing what I say. Instead of saying, “Stay where I can see you,” I can give Hayden control by saying, “Make sure you can see me.” I will still be watching him like crazy, but this way he should be more aware to always be where I can see him. 

-Teaching simple information:  It always helps to keep in mind what is age appropriate for your kids when teaching them about strangers and emergencies.  Teach them their name, address, phone number, their parent’s names, and other simple information that they could tell people to help them get back to you and keep them safe.

Good ol’ McGruff the Crime Dog has a great website for kids to teach them how to be safe.  There is everything from bullying, to guns and drugs, or staying safe online.  There are great games, and fun videos to help teach your kids. 

Some great apps that I use to help keep my family safe are:

FBI Child ID AppFree

This app is awesome! It is made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.   It allows you to store photos and vital information about your kids on your mobile phone or tablet and have it on hand to quickly supply to law enforcement or FBI personnel should your kiddo go missing.  It is password protected and easy to use. 

Family GPS Tracker from Life360Free

I also really love this app.  It scans my neighborhood or wherever we may be for possible threats.   I can locate sex offenders and access the criminal’s profiles and photos.  It also will tell what kind of crime maybe going on in my neighborhood.   I really appreciate that this app helps me locate where my family is and helps know more information about the areas I am in to help keep my family safe.  It is easy to use, customize, and get updates from my family. 

I hope these tips help teach your kids about “tricky people,” and they stay safe! Teaching Hayden how to stay safe has helped give me peace of mind as well.  I know that he knows what to do now. Do you have any tips or resources for teaching your kids about “tricky people” or strangers? 

About Megan

Megan loves being a stay at home mom to a busy boy Hayden (10) and sweet girl Halli (6). She has been happily married to her ridiculously good looking husband for 11 years. She also enjoys blogging, trying new recipes to cook or bake, girls nights, fashion, and reading. You can also find her on twitter and instagram @fourheartsproject


  1. Kathy says

    Wow these are some really great tips! I really liked the “tricky people” idea. I have been teaching my 4 year old about strangers, too, and I was stuck about how to explain the difference between a scary stranger and a safe one. This makes it easy! I am definitely going to sit down with her tomorrow and talk to her using some of the tips you listed. Thank you for this awesome post! I am going to share this on Facebook as well. Thanks so much!

  2. Jill says

    Love it! I would also make sure Hayden knows that tricky people aren’t always adults. Oh, and I’ve read that it’s a good idea to teach them the anatomically correct names of private parts. My daughter (4 yrs) was sexually abused by our close friends’ 14 YO son. The detective said, during her forensic interview, that it helped our case that she knew the proper terminology. I liked the “No-Go-Tell-Yell” stradegy that you used. We had taught our daughter not to let anyone touch her privates, but we didn’t really stress the importance of what to do if someone actually did. It took her 3 weeks to finally tell us.

  3. Lauren Brown says

    great article! My son is also 4 and this is a subject that we need to be discussing with him, I love all the tips!

  4. MaryAnn says

    It’s good to remember to teach our children these things. Sometimes parents forget or see it unnecessary and that is when bad things happen.

  5. Heidi says

    Amazing post. Thanks so much for sharing your insights on how to better prepare our children. I will definitely be implementing your strategies!

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