How to help your child differ good strangers from tricky people

How to help your child tell good strangers from tricky people

We were celebrating 4th of July at a park festival.

Usually, before kids run into the rides we reinforce the safety rules:

- "What do you do if you get lost? Whom do you ask for help? Where do we meet if we are separated in a crowd? What's my phone number?" 

Sometime between Merry-go-round and corn on the cob my son grabbed my hand and, yelling over the music, pointed to the food area:

- "Mom, look, a police officer is grilling a steak!"

- “Well cool”, I thought - until I realized something was odd...

By the way:

Your child needs to know much more than this to be safe during a public event.

We cover it all in a specialty course "Safety in a public place" 

This course is about what to do before leaving the house to make sure you can find each other quickly if being separated in a public place or any other trouble occurs.

This course is about what you can do before leaving the door to make sure if being separated in a public place, you can find each other quickly.

You don’t want your kids to be afraid of people

I've seen so many times, I need to say this: scaring kids (even unintentionally) is always bad for their safety.

Fear may look like a shortcut, especially when we don't have time or courage to discuss the topic.

But it usually bites you later.

A child intimidated by the concept of a ‘stranger danger’ may not be able to ask a stranger for help - and thus get into bigger trouble.

For example:

Instead of going to a cashier in a store, a lost child decides to run into the parking to look for your car.

Fear is easy to instill, not so easy to get rid of.

 

Why stranger danger is not working and how to teach your child safety instead - post cover

Here is the SOLUTION:

How can we paint a clear picture of who a stranger is?

 

Kids need to understand two fundamental concepts:

  1. Levels of trust - define how close the person is (close, kinda-known, stranger)
  2. Levels of goodness - define how good that person is (helpful, neutral, harmful)

Kids should not mix them.

What are the levels of trust?

There are 3 levels of trust:

  1. Trusted circle
  2. Acquaintances
  3. Strangers

Level of trust #1. Trusted circle:

This circle includes family members and REALLY close friends of the family (we talk about grown-up here - parents' friends, not kids' friends).

If you have a large extended family you need to indicate the members of the trusted circle.

You can do it by creating a family password. This is a secret word or phrase that only trusted people inside the circle can know.

Discuss who these people will be and share this password with them. Tell kids never to share it outside.

This password can serve as an emergency password. In case you need someone to help your child in an emergency.

For example, if your car broke and you can't pick them up and need to ask someone to help, kids will know that they can trust this person - because you gave him the password.

Change the password from time to time, as well as any time it was used for real.

This applies to families with healthy relationships assuming nobody can harm a child at home.

! If your intuition is telling you something is wrong with someone inside the family trusted circle, you are usually right.

Trust your intuition around any people who trigger your red flags with the signs of unhealthy behaviors. Regardless of how close they are do not include them in the trusted circle for your child.

Extra people in a trusted circle

Other people beyond the family trusted circle that kids can usually trust, include teachers that we (parents) know, and public servants.

How can kids identify the trustful public servants?

Pay your child's attention to how public servants look in your area:

  1. Badges
  2. Uniforms
  3. Equipment
  4. Arms
  5. Cars

 

So, who was that weird police officer grilling steaks on the 4th of July carnival in the park?

A man was leaning over the grill, waving to kids, and offering free samples.

How come?

We started moving closer walking through the crowd.

Then I could see:

My son confused the cook with the police officer!

Both had black uniforms with lots of badges on them, and both had lots of things attached to their belts.

And some police officers were on foot mixed with the crowd as well!

We came even closer to note all the nuanced differences. We spent a fair amount of time staring at the police officers that day.

 

So, when you discuss the uniforms, make sure your child knows how exactly they look in your area.

Tip: call your local police department - they often have tours and events for kids.

The uniforms of the road police and your constable may be different in color. The regular and holiday attire may be different, too.

 

Teach kids that uniforms may be faked. Guns can be faked, too.

A home-made vest with a sign "road-police" on the back may convince a child to comply with the "instructions" of a person wearing such a "uniform" to follow him because “this sidewalk is closed”.

 

The same applies to the employees of stores, libraries, entertainment centers, etc. The badge with the name does not mean this person works here.

A child needs to see this person working at the place of work.

A cashier, a front-desk person - anyone "attached" to the regular place of work is safer than others.

 

A child should never leave with this person and needs to stay at that place until he gets help.

He can attract additional people to stay with him as his "lifeguards" (like other moms with kids).

 

! Any person approaching a child with the request/offer to leave with him  (regardless of the signs of the public servant or an employee of this place) cannot be trusted unless that's a crowd emergency situation.

 

Level of trust #2. People we are acquainted with ("kinda known"):

Teachers at school that kids and we (parents) don't know well, other kids' moms, coaches, random family friends, etc.

 

#3 Levels of trust: Strangers – all other people are strangers and remain strangers until they are introduced to the child by his parents.

 

To solve the problem of ‘stranger danger’ without placing unwanted fears onto your kids you need to handle it as part of a regular ongoing discussion.

I will show you how to use everyday situations, movies, and books as natural prompts to start these conversations.

What are the levels of goodness?

Apart from the levels of trust, kids need to understand 3 levels of "goodness."

Kids need to know that regardless of the levels of trust, the levels of "goodness" are
different:

1. Good/helpful people - most people, in general, are good and wish you well.

2. Neutral people - some people don't care about you.

3. Dangerous/harmful people - a small number of people can be harmful.

How levels of trust and levels of goodness work together

! Keep the levels of trust (close, acquaintance, stranger) separate from the levels of goodness (helpful, neutral, harmful).

Avoid mixing them.

Here is the rule for kids:

! “The fact that you KNOW someone, does not mean he is good - and vice versa.”
You might see a harmful person in the inner circle, and an awesome super-helpful
stranger.

The inner circle of trust does not mean all "good" people. And strangers are not necessarily bad.

Most child-related troubles are caused not by strangers, but by the people within
the family circle or acquaintances.

Conversation prompt: How to talk about the definition of a stranger

“A stranger means the level of trust someone is granted.

Not the level of goodness.

Most strangers wish you well.

Strangers are not the scary cartoon characters wearing masks and hats.

Strangers are ordinary people of any gender, race, age, and appearance who do not belong to the inner circle of trust nor the circle of acquaintances.

! Even a child you have just met is still a stranger - until your parents have gotten acquainted with him.

All the safety RULES apply to communications with this child”.

 

Now your child can understand what your “Never leave with a stranger” rule means to him:

You are not supposed to run off with a new friend you've met 5 minutes ago, with
another mom on a playground, or a person walking a puppy.

! These people do not need to wear a mask, offer candy, or hide in the bushes to qualify
as being strangers.

But they are strangers.

 

Bottom line:

Empower your kids with the confidence to check with you first.

If they hesitate about whether to trust someone, tell them always think the worst.

Doubt is one of the gut feelings.

If you DON'T FEEL safe, you probably ARE NOT.

 

If you think this topic is important, please share this page with other parents - they will thank you!

Do you want your child to be safe with people?

Do you want to know the big picture of teaching safety?

Do you want your child to be safe when you are not around?

Do you want to teach kids to be safe in the situations you have never discussed? 

 

Enroll in a Free online course for parents of kids 3-10 years old

"Teach Your Child Safety With Strangers (and other people)"

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Teach Your Child Safety with Strangers

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  • Your child to be safe with strangers and other people around him?
  • Learn safety skills in a positive, and practical way?
  • Be prepared and worry you less?

Join this free class and go from fear to confidence.

When your child breaks a safety rule he didn’t know, it may be too late to teach the rule.

Don't wait until it's too late. Our kids are the most precious of what we have - protect them.

A conversation prompt on how to explain a definition of stranger to your child

Get to know your child's safety skills

Stranger danger safety level test be with kids

  Do you want to know how safe your child is?

 

  Do you want to improve his safety skills?

 

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What parents say:

 

"The questions of this test made me think of how many important topics my kids yet need to learn about safety.

Thank you for bringing it to my attention"

- Laura Richards, Mum of two

Active shooting – what you need to know to protect your child

How to Help Your Child Survive An Active Shooting

How to teach your kids about active shooter in a public place - post cover

I think that the necessity of teaching kids to survive a possible shooting is all wrong and crazy.

It needs to be fixed on a global level.

No parent (including myself) wants to hear, think, or talk about teaching kids this area of safety.

But, if nothing else, we can increase kids’ chances of survival, the stress of having this conversation is totally worth it.

What kids need to know:

  1. There is no one proven method to get out of this situation.
  2. Shooting usually lasts less than 5-10 minutes – kids need to survive this amount of time.
  3. They are on their own for that time until help arrives and need to commit to rescuing themselves – they should listen to their teachers, but keep in mind that they may not be able to help everyone.

 

If your kids are young (3-5 years old) you can just play games (see Practices below) and do not have any conversations until they can handle them.

 

If your kids are older (5-10 years old) you can gently start the conversation about what has helped people survive a shooting.

How to start this conversation:

Tips:

  • It’s easier to have these conversations outside and while walking.
  • Keep them under 3-5 minutes.
  • Stop if you feel anxiety, fear, or resistance.
  • Never force your child to talk about anything if he is not ready.
  • Always answer questions.
  • Leave the door open – tell your child he can always come to you with any question no matter how scary or weird it may seem – you are an adult and you can handle it.
  • Keep answers to a level kids can accept.
  • Provide examples like this:

 

A librarian who saved 55 students had prior relevant experience of a similar situation and as a result, following the “hide” part of the lockdown procedure:

  1. Recognized the sound of real gunshots fast
  2. Pulled kids into the room and locked it
  3. Covered the window at the door
  4. ! Turned lights off
  5. Instructed kids to hide, stay put, and be quiet so that the room seemed empty

 

If you are not sure you can be calm talking about it for the first time – show kids a video with a safety lesson by an elementary school teacher – it is listed in the resources at the end of this article.

 

 

How to make sure kids understand and remember what to do:

 

Kids forget things quickly.

 

Apart from having conversations, kids need to practice and reinforce the skills.

 

Safety is like swimming – you can’t teach it by just talking and watching videos.

 

Even though many schools do drills, it’s your responsibility as a parent to make sure your child understands and remembers what to do.

 

Kids need to know about 4 possible steps of surviving a shooting:

 

Recognize – Run - Hide – Fight

Step 1: Recognize the shooting

The faster people evacuate the higher their chances for survival.

 

In situations of stress, people may freeze and waste crucial time not believing the shooting is real.

 

This brain inertia is called “normalcy bias”.

 

It happens when the brain refuses to accept the danger and underestimates the possible effects. The brain believes that things will always function the way things normally have functioned.

 

The faster people react, the higher the chances of running away.

 

This is one of the main reasons we need to have these conversations with our kids despite all the drawbacks of stress and anxiety.

 

How to help kids recognize the shooting fast

 

If kids are at school, they will most likely be alerted by their teacher or by the intercom systems.

 

In all other places kids need to be able to figure it out by themselves or follow the instructions of their trusted adult.

 

This includes knowing how guns sound and look.

Recognize shooting by sound: Take kids to a kid-friendly place where they can hear real gun sounds in a safe environment. In real life, the sound is different from the movies. Use ear protection.

Practice 1: Introduce kids to the sound and look of guns in an appropriate way:

    1. Military and history museums have open house days and do pretend battles. These guns may be old models, but they are still guns.
    2. If you or someone you know own guns (and your kids are old enough) you can take them to a place where you practice and let them hear the sounds. It should be an age-appropriate and kid safe place.

 

Recognize guns by look: find an appropriate place to show kids real guns

Practice 2: Teach kids the names and types of the most popular guns (pistols, rifles, shotguns)

  1. Military or history museums often have modern guns on display.
  2. Your police department may do field trips for kids and have a museum or an exhibition.
  3. Show your guns if you have them. Follow safety rules.
  4. A gun store or a hunt are not appropriate places for kids to have safety lessons.
  5. Teach kids that if they see a gun they need to run and tell their trusted adult immediately (for example a person in a grocery store with a visible gun in a purse, or pocket; any gun during a play date.)

Step 2: Run

Running from the building towards a safe location is the first option that should be considered.

At this step the goal is to teach kids 3 things:

 

  1. Situation awareness

Teach your child to pay attention to what’s around you, how the environment changes, who is around you, and what feels odd (people who do not belong to the environment, or alerting behaviors.)

Practice: [The course: “Teach Your Child Ultimate Safety” has an entire module of games to help kids build the skill of situation awareness]

 

  1. Spatial awareness

Teach your child to pay attention to the layouts of buildings, location of the stairs, corridors, hallways, emergency exits, windows, and mark them as possible evacuation routes.

+ Note the objects that can be used as covers (walls, columns, vending machines).

 

Practice 3: Figure out evacuation plans for the places you visit most often and practice modeling these plans until it becomes a habit. (This saves lives during fires and crowd emergencies as well.)

At some point, your child will see a pattern of how emergency layouts are designed in different public places and will anticipate the locations of the stairs, exits, etc.

 

Practice 4: Check how the environment can be changed to let you evacuate (what can you use to break a window or force a locked exit door to open: fire extinguishers, heavy objects, tools, tactical flashlights, cubatons, tactical pens - google what they are).

 

 

  1. Move while changing directions and in zigzags in the open space

Shooting a moving target is times harder than someone who is still.

If you can, hide behind the objects - put objects between you and the shooter.

 

Practice 5: Take kids to a laser tag, Nerf gun place, squirt guns, or paintball obstacle course so that they can practice running and hiding.

 

Practice 6: Teach kids to run fast by signing them up for soccer, baseball, or athletic training.

Alternative Step 2: Hide

If evacuation is not possible, the next option is to hide.

An active shooter is less likely to force his way through locked doors than trying to find easier targets.

 

On this step, your goal is to teach kids to hide and never open the doors to anyone for any reason (shooters may pretend to be a victim asking for help or shelter in the room).

 

Remind kids that everyone must be quiet, all phones must be in silence mode, lights off, blinds shut.

 

Call 911 – don’t assume someone already did!

 

Practice the skill of hiding during the shooting or home invasion:

 

Practice 7: Play classic hide and seek when kids play with each other or you.

 

Practice 8: Brainstorm Emergency hide and seek and find unusual places for hiding (in case your child is not with a group and needs to hide on his own.)

 

Precaution:

  1. Discuss with kids that most of these places are inappropriate and dangerous for regular hide and seek.
  2. Never let kids hide there during play.
  3. These are the places for hiding in case of a shooting emergency only.
  4. Make sure kids are not in danger of suffocation in those places (like dryers or washers).
  5. Make sure kids know how to get out of those places and can do it without help.

 

Walk around your house, class, church, or other building to find unusual places to hide in case of a shooting:

  • Inside the cabinets and under the counters
  • Lying flat under the piled covers, blankets, or laundry
  • Any area several feet above the head level - people rarely look up
  • Inside of boxes, chests, wagons, containers, drawers, or shelves
  • In attics or sheds
  • Under trampolines, flipped buckets, or boxes

Find as many as you can.

Discuss new places as you go to new buildings (stores, cinemas, parks, hospitals.)

 

Practice 9: Brainstorm unusual poses to hide:

    1. Climbing on top of the toilet inside a stall if you get stuck in a restroom - so that your legs are not visible from the outside
    2. Packing yourself into a tiny space that kids can fit into - in a child's pose on a chair pushing yourself under a desk with the chair so that legs are not visible under the chair and you are covered by the desk
    3. Squeezing yourself into a tight or tiny space - a shelf under a desk, a locker, or between the pieces of furniture.

 

Practice 10: Stay put

Teach kids to stay in one position at the same place for 10-15 minutes without moving or making a sound.

Set a timer for one minute and tell your child to hide in some regular hide and seek place and stay there until the timer goes off.

Each round, increase the time minute by minute until kids can stay unnoticeable for 10-15 minutes while you are looking for them.

They should not disclose their location by making any sounds or movements (including giggling or breathing loudly after running to their location.)

Make sure kids don't respond to conversation prompts (shooters may knock on doors or pretend to yell for help).

 

Practice 11: Learn how to barricade doors

  1. By blocking it – using the furniture (desks, podiums, bookcases, shelves) or other heavy objects (bins, containers, boxes.) Try different layouts - putting the heaviest object first to the door or last to the door and checking which version works better.
  2. By fixing the opening mechanisms:
    1. If you have a belt, loop and tighten it around the top part of the door closer - so that the arms opening the door can’t move. This is the thing ABOVE your head between the opening part of the door and the fixed part of the door.
    2. You can also tighten your belt around the door handle and attach it to something sturdy if it’s possible or hold it in your hands (standing by the side of the door avoiding the line of fire).

Step 3: Fight

 

This is the last resort – teach kids to never play a superhero.

Many kids believe they can fight a gunman.

 

Fighting is the last option. It may be used only if the other options are not available or failed to be executed (if the room has no place to hide, if the door cannot be locked or barricaded, or if the door was forced open).

 

Little kids are not supposed to fight a shooter. But kids need to know that an adult may fight with a shooter and they should stay as far they can - running away if possible - because the direction of the shots becomes unpredictable. 

 

Older kids also need to know that as a last resort they may attack as a class throwing things, yelling, screaming, and keep running.

 

If you are an adult at school:

 

"What if nothing else" plan:

 

  • Watch video 3 under this article.
  • You are most likely to have something to protect yourself in your classroom already.
  • Prepare yourself mentally to fight.
  • Commit to action.
  • Stay out of the line of the fire.
  • Attack from the side of the door.
  • Attack from different angles if you can involve several people.
  • During your attack make as much noise as you can to help other people know where the shooter is.

 

In this scenario, your biggest asset is unpredictability, focused aggression, and full force action.

 

The weakest places of the shooter are his vision and the trigger of the gun. 

 

The toughest lesson from law enforcement is:

 

“If the fight leaves room for just one winner, may it be you, never stop half-way.”

 

 

Practice 12: Brainstorm improvised weapons, hiding spots, and evacuation options in your class

 

You can use the following objects:

  • Fire extinguisher to hit or spray.
  • Spray bottles with bleach, toilet cleaner, or cosmetics aerosol to spray.
  • Scissors, tactical or regular pen, cubaton to poke.
  • Tactical flashlight to hit.
  • Rice, beads, and sand from sensory tables to distract.
  • Chairs, books, backpacks, binders, laptops, flag poles, tabletop lamps, staplers, plant pots, coffee pots, skateboards, water bottles, stoves, microwaves, even phones for throwing and hitting.
  • A belt can turn into a choking weapon.
  • Trash can put on someone's head may give a couple of seconds as well.
Self-defense improvised tools in your classroom or home - checklist

Download a free checklist

"12 educational activities for kids that can help survive an active shooter situation"

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Active shooter training - 12 activities for school kids that can help survive - post cover - rubber duck on the dart pad

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Hopefully, none of us will ever need to implement any of these tips.

 

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Please, scroll to the comments and let us know what you think about this article.

More resources from the sites I love:

Articles:

https://amotherfarfromhome.com/what-every-mom-should-know-in-an-active-shooter-situation/

http://creeksidelearning.com/when-theres-an-active-shooter-in-a-public-place-how-parents-can-make-a-safety-plan-with-kids/

 

Videos:

  1. A lesson presented by an elementary teacher – she is talking to her class - there are no scary scenes in it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQIR1pqd3k8

  1. This video demonstrates a lesson on what teachers are supposed to do during a lockdown.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6YjDmAnafQ

  1. A clip about the training at one of the schools – ! start from the minute 3.00 (the intro is sad)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRHcbJ9DHEg

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How to explain death, traumas and disabilities to kids in a non-scary way

How to discuss 3 of the scariest things with kids: death, traumas, and disabilities while teaching safety

- "Mommy, why did the ambulance come?", the innocent eyes ask.

Do you have a decent answer?

At some time our kids face the reality - things happen to people they love.

 

As parents, we are responsible for making this realization as painless as possible.

Whenever you feel your child is ready to take a new step in learning about the things that might scare him, take it gently.

It's better to discuss those topics when life is calm and nothing happened than trying to recollect yourself dealing with some emergency and explaining it to your child at the same time.

How to discuss death while teaching kids safety

This is the scariest topic of safety. If you’ve had this conversation already, you can refer to it.

Long story short, build your conversation around 3 things:

  1. Humans are intended to live a long, happy life.
  2. Safety is a science of keeping yourself alive and healthy as long as you possibly can.
  3. If people do not follow safety rules their life might end sooner or they can lose their health.

Use as much generalization as you can.

Say that your kids are learning safety and are going to live a long and happy life.

This is how we were created and how our lives are intended to be.

How to discuss traumas while teaching safety

 

How to comfort your child in trauma, build connection and teach safety - a dad showing a boy how to ride a bike

Kids do not realize the consequences of a fracture until they get one.

The only way to teach about traumas is to utilize the mishaps you get along the way.

A child got a burn? A couple of days later get back to that situation and say:

"Remember how painful that little burn with the fingertip was?

Can you imagine how painful it would be if you put your whole hand on it rather than just your fingertip?”

Explain that our body will stay with us for all our life. It does have capabilities to heal, but not to regenerate. You can show the starfish growing their arms or lizards growing their tails. Explain that humans cannot do the same.

Teach kids that humans can't regrow their body parts.
Teach kids that humans can't regrow their body parts.

How to respond if your child got hurt - to build connection and teach safety

We all saw moms leaving play dates carrying their almost 8 year-olds dramatically suffering after losing a fight with a sibling.

And we also saw kiddos "I'm-okay-just-trapped-over-with-my-bike-landing-on-top" who just shook off the dirt and left you in the dust staring at their tailgates wondering if those kids are made of rubber.

The way you respond to your children’s traumas will give them the scenario of how they are supposed to behave.

If you go into "panic mode" whenever your kids fall, kids lose the "anchor" to hold on to.

In their minds, you are the rock they can rely on if something happened, and now it is failing them.

On the other hand, just trying to stay calm and casually ask, "Are you okay?" might amplify your child's negative emotions and trigger "acting" about how badly they were hurt.

It might signal that his needs for your support were not met.

How parents accidentally open their kids to bullying

On the opposite side of the scale, if you exaggerate your response and pay too much attention to minor things, your child may subconsciously learn that in order to get someone's attention he needs to get hurt.

This may lead to unhealthy patterns in their future relationships like "victim-rescuer-prosecutor" (also known as a drama triangle).

 

If you step in into a kid's conflict on someone's side, kids may learn that in order to have someone on their side (a parent, a teacher) they need to provoke that child to hurt them.

This is one of the reasons some kids get bullied all the time and adults can't help them - because everybody knows this child is intentionally victimizing himself to manipulate the adults.

 

The algorithm of handling a boo-boo situation

Instead of saying "Are you okay?", or commenting on the acting, try the following algorithm (inspired by a conversation of Milton Erickson with his son) responding to the boo-boo situation.

It works with the emotional trauma as well.

Step 1: Make a connection

When you see your child already hurt, come to him and say "It hurts. It hurts a lot," (for a major thing) or "It hurts. It probably hurts," (for a minor thing).

  • It will build an immediate connection between you and your child.
  • And instead of your child thinking - "It's good to say are you okay - that's not you who is hurting", he feels you understand what is going on.
  • Now you have his ears and trust. And a chance to say the next thing.

Otherwise, you are talking to an alien who does not hear you.

At the moment someone is really hurt, he falls into the internal circle of his mind - focusing more on what's inside of him than outside.

All the brain resources are busy figuring out the trauma. This is the reason why people do not respond during the first couple of seconds when they are in shock.

 

Step 2: Verbalize child's feelings / fear

Chose Plan A or B depending on how bad the situation is.

Plan A. If the trauma is easy (he was running and fell), ask "What do you feel more: you're more hurt or scared / disappointed / upset".

In many cases, they will say "upset / scared" and be done.

  • You verbalized his FEELINGS, you contained them.
  • You addressed his needs.
  • Case closed. He can run again.

The rest of the algorithm is for the bigger traumas.

Plan B. If the trauma is serious and you both understand it, say "It is probably going to hurt more" .

  • Your child has the fear that this moment is not the end, that the ER treatment and the recovery process is going to hurt as well.
  • Your goal is to verbalize his FEAR.
  • It is easier for him to hear it from you than to suspect it.

For a child, it also means you are still with him. You accept him and his feelings regardless of what has happened.

This way you reassure that his feelings and fears are normal.

  • You are still the grown-up.
  • You are accountable.
  • You can handle it.

 

Step 3: Verbalize child's need

The next step is to say "You really want this to stop hurting" .

  • This way you verbalize his NEED.
  • This is a turning point from the past to the future.
  • This way you remind your child that there is a way out. Kids usually stop crying at this point.

In some cases, if a child also ruined her dress, broke her toy and feels upset, you can say, "You really want this to be fixed / cleaned".

 

Step 4: Verbalize child's hope

The next step is to say "It might get better soon" 

  • This way you verbalize his HOPE. The word "might" is important, because otherwise, your child may think you are lying to him to calm him down. "Might" is giving him a way to accept the hope.

 

Step 5: Support and figure out what to do next

The next step is to say: "Let's see what we can do here". 

  • Whatever you say next needs to be positive and encouraging "You've gotten calm so quickly - you are brave"
  • "Thank you for cooperating and being patient" - whatever positive you can say to support your child
  • Then examine the trauma and figure out what to do next.

 

Step 6: Lift your child up

When someone is hurt, his physical barrier with the world is broken.

And the emotional one is broken too.

  • Feeling miserable is normal.
  • Our goal is to lift the child's spirit and do not let him feel guilty.
  • Offenders often try to make people feel guilty for being hurt - don't let your child fall into this - help him be resilient.

 

Step 7: Verbalize the lesson

At some point, it is necessary to say "It was a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes", "Let's think how to avoid it the next time."

If you and your child learn these steps, you both will feel less panic even when the traumas are serious.

Download the checklist for the future reference

"7 STEPS to comfort your child in trauma"

↓↓↓↓↓↓

How to comfort your child in trauma and teach safety - checklist

+ Receive a free mini-course on how to teach kids safety with people in a positive way

7 steps to comfort your child in trauma and teach safety - cecklist

And one more thing:

Please never laugh, even if the situation looks funny (like when a child has gotten stuck in the mud and fell on his butt) and you can't help smiling.

This may hurt more than their accident.

How to discuss disabilities while teaching kids safety

The next way to start a conversation about safety mistakes that can lead to serious traumas or disabilities is to point out people in wheelchairs, people that are blind, and amenities for people that are disabled.

You need to be gentle and super delicate - you don't want to offend these people by staring, pointing or discussing their differences with your child in front of them.

 

The best way is to quietly pay your child's attention to such a person and discuss it later.

  • Discuss how good it is to have all your body parts functioning well.
  • As well as have the full set of all those body parts.
  • That's a suitable place to start the conversation about what people can do despite their disabilities, too.

How to respond when kids ask what happened to this person:

1. You can say that it might be the way they came to this world.

2. It might also be an accident they could not control. Make sure not to scare kids when introducing the topic of misfortune.

It's tough, but it’s better kids learn it from you:

"Life may turn unfair, not the way it’s meant to be. Even though we cannot understand why and never accept it.”

 

Otherwise, the shock of facing something unfair happening to someone accidentally might be amplified by the child's unpreparedness: "HOW could that happen? It's so unfair!"

 

To make the landing softer you can say that things like that, fortunately, do not happen very often.

 

3. This person with a disability might have made a huge mistake.

  • ! The balance between creating the fear of mistakes and understanding is fragile.
  • It will depend on how you explain that one mistake at one moment can change someone's life drastically forever.
  • And that kids need to take care of their bodies and keep themselves safe.

! Warning: you don't want to place fear of making mistakes when discussing the traumas.

 

Even though making a mistake can put someone in a wheelchair, we are here to learn safety measures to prevent these things.

Explain that mistakes in learning are normal and beneficial, and they do not lead to a wheelchair, granted you follow the safety instructions.

But careless mistakes and neglected safety measures are dangerous.

The goal is to explain to kids:

"You are keeping yourself safe not only for the sake of your mom's sanity but because you will not be given any other body than this one".

And kids need to do everything possible to never need any help from the ambulance.

Their "tail" will not regrow.

Do you want your child to be safe with people?

Do you want to know the big picture of teaching safety?

Do you want your child to be safe when you are not around?

Do you want to teach kids to be safe in the situations you have never discussed? 

 

Enroll in a Free online course for parents of kids 3-10 years old

"Teach Your Child Safety With Strangers (and other people)"

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Teach Your Child Safety with Strangers

Do you want:

  • Your child to be safe with strangers and other people around him?
  • Learn safety skills in a positive, and practical way?
  • Be prepared and worry you less?

Join this free class and go from fear to confidence.

When your child breaks a safety rule he didn’t know, it may be too late to teach the rule.

Don't wait until it's too late. Our kids are the most precious of what we have - protect them.

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How to explain abduction without scaring your child

How to explain abduction without scaring your child

Let's talk abduction - so that our kids never face it

Teach safety rules early

My 4-year-old broke a safety rule that I did not teach him. Yet.

 

How can I explain abduction the way he could understand?

 

We were ready to go home after a family day in a park.

Kids were riding bikes. It was getting late.

Cars were leaving the parking lot.

My phone rang:

- “Is he with you?” my husband asked.

- “Yes, he is.”

- “I mean are BOTH KIDS with you?”

“What do you mean by BOTH? Dill is here, Tek was with you!” I tried to keep calm. Dill looked up at my shivering hands.

- “I. Don't. See. Tek. He was riding his bike.” My husband was out of breath from running.

 

We ran to the parking lot, yelling and checking everything.

We looked in the bathrooms, on the playground, on the tennis courts, on the trail, on the fields, in the pavilions – everywhere.

He wasn’t there.

The cars were leaving the parking lot one by one.

 

 - “Should I call the police now or should we make one more round running?” - one scary thought ran after another.

- What if he’s in trouble? What if I never see him again?”

How to explain abduction without scaring your child - kids safety rules

This is what happened

My phone rang again:

“He’s here. I found him!” – I could barely hear my husband’s voice.

I let out the breath I’d been holding, and the tears dropped on my cheeks.

 

Every parent had a scary moment like this.

When your child runs off in the unknown direction with a new friend, rides his bike way too far, hides in a store, or just walks away without paying attention and gets lost.

And it gets even worse when you have teenagers.

Why did it happen?

When we all calm down a bit, I asked

- “How did you get here?”

- “I saw a squirrel and ran after it. I thought you went to the parking lot,” he said.

 

Oh boy, he was going too fast.

He went in the wrong direction to the WRONG parking lot.

He's got lost.

Who knew it could have happened.

Keep in mind, we were not letting kids ride around the park unsupervised.

He managed to get lost between a couple of trees and a playground.

A couple. Of feet. From. Us. Under. Our. Watch.

 

- “Why didn’t you tell us where you were going?” 

 

I asked and kicked myself.

It was totally my fault - I hadn’t taught him this rule yet.

 

Do not repeat this mistake - your child may get into bigger trouble before you even think of it.

Two big safety mistake parents make with young kids

 

I thought that at 4-year-old was way too young to be required to share his plans before leaving.

How wrong I was.

 

Mistake #1:

I didn't teach safety rules early enough.

 

Mistake #2:

I didn't know how to explain it in an age-appropriate way without scaring him.

How to explain abduction to young kids

Keep in mind, abduction worries you more than your kids.

Little kids can sense your fear and anxiety, so when you teach this topic, you need to be well prepared to explain it in an empowering way.

 

The message for the little kids can be formulated this way:

"This happens. People who do that make money this way. They take a child and ask for money. It's illegal. You need to know the rules on how to keep yourself safe".

 

That's more than enough foundation for the first explanation.

 

How to explain abduction in details without introducing fear

 

Keep in mind, that abduction by strangers is less common than those committed by people that kids knew or "kinda" knew (sometimes without their parents knowing).

In many cases, abducted kids were "groomed" by a predator beforehand and left their home voluntarily or under the pressure of shame, guilt, or fear and did not dare to tell their parents.

It does happen in families with good relationships too - predators are good in psychology and manipulation.

Your connection with your child is his best defense.

 

Related article: Why stranger danger is not working and what to do instead.

Practice: books, cartoons, and stories

Many classic fairy-tales were designed to teach safety.

Not all of them are still relevant or useful, but some are good.

This is an example of how I used a Gingerbread man story:

 

“I can run away from you, I can. Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!” -

“Do you see the gingerbread man?” – I asked my son.

- “Yes.”

- “Anything wrong happened to him?”

- “Yes. He ran away from home and the fox ate him.”

- “Here is the lesson: if you’re going to leave, you tell me about it before you go, okay? So that if you need help, I’m around.”

- “Okay.”

 

How you can use it

The following stories can be used to explain the topic of abduction and the situations where kids were kept somewhere forcefully:

Little Red Riding Hood, Aladdin, Thumbelina, and Rapunzel.

You can use either books or cartoons.

 

For example, the Little Red Riding Hood broke 3 major safety rules:

 

  1. She changed the route to her grandma house without checking with her mom first
  2. She left with the stranger
  3. She disclosed her plans and the location of her grandma’s house to a stranger

+ She didn't listen to her intuition about the weird look of the grandma.

 

Scroll down to download the full guide on how to teach safety with the stories, books, and cartoons that I made for you.

 

It not as scary to talk about abduction, predators, and safety mistakes when it happens to a character in a book.

Your kids will understand and remember safety rules better through the story they can relate to.

Teach your child abduction safety rules

We did the work for you!

 

Sign up below to receive a swipe copy for the instructions, examples, and conversation scripts:

Download your copy

"Explain abduction in a non-scary way using stories, books, and cartoons"

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How to use cartoons for teaching kids safety - post cover - red riding hood and a wolf

Algorithm for 4 stories:

- Little Red Riding Hood

- Thumbelina

- Rapunzel

- Aladdin

Topics:

- Abduction

- Following safety rules

- The consequences of breaking them

 

Learn how to use any story, cartoon or life situation for teaching safety.

 

Explain this super sensitive topic in a delicate, neutral way without feeling scared or scaring your child.

Well, instead of dreading teaching this subject,

I am now looking forward to starting it. - Liz T, mom

How to use everyday situations to teach kids safety

  1. Learn kids’ safety rules yourself
  2. Sign up for a free mini-course and learn how to use everyday situations to teach safety
  3. Sign up for the full course and let kids practice the skills and experience the drills in a positive, hands-on way.

You don’t need to fake any situations.

You’ll learn to use your everyday life by just paying attention, including stories, games, books, movies, and cartoons you already know.

Do you want your child to be safe with people?

Do you want to know the big picture of teaching safety?

Do you want your child to be safe when you are not around?

Do you want to teach kids to be safe in the situations you have never discussed? 

 

Enroll in a Free online course for parents of kids 3-10 years old

"Teach Your Child Safety With Strangers (and other people)"

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Teach Your Child Safety with Strangers

Do you want:

  • Your child to be safe with strangers and other people around him?
  • Learn safety skills in a positive, and practical way?
  • Be prepared and worry you less?

Join this free class and go from fear to confidence.

When your child breaks a safety rule he didn’t know, it may be too late to teach the rule.

Don't wait until it's too late. Our kids are the most precious of what we have - protect them.

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Take action

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Why stranger danger is not working and how to teach your child safety instead

Why “stranger danger” is not working and how to teach your child safety instead

Why is the concept of ‘stranger danger’ (or “tricky people”) not working for teaching kids safety?

 

We were watching a cartoon that was supposed to teach safety to kids:

- “Who is this?” – my 4-year-old asked pointing at the person hiding behind a tree and holding candy.

- “Eh… a bad guy?” – I suggested.

- "A stranger?" - he asked.

 

Uh-oh, we need to clear the concept of a stranger, I thought. That's how this conversation started.

 

“Don’t talk to strangers” is an old-school rule sending confusing messages to your child.

Keep in mind that most products for teaching kids safety are outdated.

Modern kids need a modern approach to safety.

Why stranger danger is not working and how to teach your child safety instead post cover - a girl smiling

Why most kids do not understand the concept of “stranger danger”

 

Your kids are confused when you tell them:

  1. "DO NOT talk to a stranger"
  2. "DO NOT leave with a stranger"

Because kids do not understand who the stranger is!

 

Is a stranger a man or a woman? Is he or she old, young, good looking, or ugly?

 

Is a stranger a man or a woman?

Is he or she old or young?

Good-looking or ugly?

Nice or mean?

 

How does your child see strangers:

- Is a waiter a stranger?

- What about the waiter we see regularly?

 

- Is a teacher a stranger?

- What about a volunteering parent escorting kids to the restrooms during a camp?

 

- Is a friend of a dad a stranger too?

- But, is it safe to open the door to a dad’s colleague who brought something while parents are at work? Is he a friend, or just (maybe) working at the same company?

 

Are you confused? Your child is confused!

 

What are the safety consequences?

! Unprepared child

may not recognize an unsafe stranger and

may not respond in a safe way.

Why do bad guys in the movies and cartoons offer candy to attract a child?

Because most kids’ safety resources are outdated.

In the past cities were small and strangers were odd.

A stranger in a village was a big deal.

But modern kids interact with strangers every day.

 

Kids are misled by the outdated scenarios

What is your child thinking?

- “Oh, a stranger is a mean, ugly person wearing a mafia-style hat and a mask. He is enticing a child with a candy from behind a tree. No good”.

 

What does the child learn?

- “Watch out for the black-hats men offering candy!”

 

What is the conclusion your child makes?

- “But wait, I’ve got candy from all sorts of people on Halloween and nothing bad happened. Mom is overreacting. I don’t think it’s dangerous”.

 

As a result:

  1. Your child is not considering strangers could be dangerous.
  2. He painted a wrong portrait of a stranger in his mind (white, middle-aged male in a certain environment and scenario)

The biggest safety problem with 3-8 year-olds

! Young kids understand the rules literally.

When you say:

- “Don’t take candy from strangers” 

 

Your child depending on the age and safety level may act as:

- “It’s okay to go in with a neighbor to get some cookies”.

 

Because you didn’t specifically mention the neighbors and the cookies.

What does your child need to know to be safe with strangers (and other people around)?

Kids need to know the big picture of how safety works.

They need to be able to keep themselves safe when you are not around.

They need to know how to handle safety situations you have never discussed. 

Enroll in a Free online course for parents of kids 3-10 years old

"Teach Your Child Safety With People"

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Free mini-course: Teach your child safety with strangers in a positive, hands-on way - post cover - a girl in white shorts and t-shirt and red scarf

Act, do not react.

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Take action

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Recommended product

 

Full safety course for parents of kids 3-10 years old 

 

A modern perspective on teaching safety with people

 

Do you want to know how safe is YOUR child?

You can test it!

What parents say:

 

"The questions of this test made me think of how many important topics my kids yet need to learn about safety.

Thank you for bringing it to my attention"

- Laura Richards, Mum of two

Stranger danger safety level test be with kids

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8 unsafe situations that should alert you and your child

8 unsafe help requests from strangers that should alert you and your child

A stranger is asking a child for help

This is the second part of the series "Help requests from strangers". Read the first part here: "A stranger is asking a child for help".

 

When your child turns 3 years old teach them:

  • The difference between safe and unsafe help requests
  • How to behave to be kind and stay safe
  • What to do if they find themselves in a situation you haven’t discussed yet (for example, if a good-looking old lady is asking for something and you didn’t talk about it)
8 safety situations about help requests from strangers every child needs to know - post cover - an old lady in glasses and red hat

 

How your child is responding to a help request

  1. Shall I go ahead and help?
  2. Shall I walk away?
  3. Am I rude and unsympathetic?

It's hard.

Most of the time we encourage our kids to cooperate, answer questions, be nice, polite, and cute.

That's why today we will talk about a very important and commonly neglected skill: Rejection.

 

Right to reject

By the school age your child needs to learn:

  • How to reject firmly and politely
  • How to say "No" to a grown-up
  • How to express his disagreement, dislike, or unwillingness to participate in something

This is the cornerstone of his ability to stand up for:

  • his boundaries,
  • his physical and emotional space, and
  • his interests and opinions

Three weak spots predators are looking for

These are the most common buttons pushed by predators to manipulate a child:

 

  1. Significance: feeling important and involved.
  2. Curiosity: luring surprises, adventures, or unknown things.
  3. Being a helper: when your child sees a kitten, a puppy, or someone helpless, old, little, sick, or otherwise in need of help.

These triggers throw children into an unusual and disruptive situation.

What happens to unprepared kids

  1. Most strangers who ask your child for help do it with good intentions (hoping they will help to build good character, for example) or without thinking much at all.
  2. The line between good people and those with bad intent is very subtle for the child.
  3. Harmful people are well-prepared and aware of a child’s psychology. They know and use tricks.

 

! Unprepared kids cannot figure out when a help request might have bad intentions.

8 scenarios your child must know by kindergarten

Make sure you've discussed all these scenarios and what to do - because they should raise a huge red flag in your child's mind:

  1. A request that is forcing a child into something uncomfortable
  2. A request that must be kept secret
  3. A request to open the door (for inspection, treatment, using a restroom, in need of calling 911, package delivery, baby crying on the porch, injured animal, etc.)
  4. A request over the phone when parents are not around
  5. A request requiring a child to enter a house, a building, or move into a different location
  6. A request involving money or other incentives
  7. A request from someone following a child on foot, or in a car, or inviting a child into a car
  8. A fake request for help on behalf of a parent

(If you feel this topic is important, pin this list for other parents, please):

8 unsafe help requests that should alert your child checklist + action plans how kids should respond safely

What kids should do in each situation?

Download the instructions

↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

  • How to recognize unsafe requests
  • How to behave
  • How to help safely or reject properly

In a positive, non-scary way.

8 unsafe help requests that should alert you and your child - post cover - phone with candies

P.S. If your child learns how to help and reject to help properly when he is little, not only he will be much safer when communicating with strangers, but he will also have higher self-esteem and lower risk of being involved in trouble during the teenage and adult years.

 

Don’t wait until it is too late.

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Take action

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Please sign up above - so I can guide you through the next steps.

↑↑↑↑↑↑↑

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Recommended product

 

Full safety course for parents of kids 3-10 years old 

 

A modern perspective on teaching safety with people

 

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How to teach about tricky people and help requests

A stranger is asking a child for help

How to teach your child about tricky people and help requests from strangers in a positive way - post cover - a girl with a backpack

My mom will never forget the moment when I (7 years old) let someone into the house when I was home alone.

 

I knew these rules:

  • I should not have opened the door to anyone,
  • I should not have talked to anyone through the door,
  • And the dog had to answer the doorbell.

… I broke all the rules.

 

Why?

The truth is: most parents don’t teach kids safety until something happens, or they don’t teach it in the right way.

 

Make sure YOUR kids know and understand the rules about how to be safe with strangers.

Now read on to see what happened to me.

Before you judge

I was not ignorant about safety. Neither my parents were.

 

Now as a mom, I can totally relate since I'm dealing with the same questions my parents did:

  • How can we raise a compassionate child without sacrificing her safety?
  • How can we teach her the difference between legitimate requests for help and those with malicious intent?
  • How can my child help safely or reject gracefully without feeling bad or guilty?

When I became a mom

I felt anxious that maybe I was not teaching safety enough.

  • What if my child falls into's a help request manipulation?
  • What if my teaching falls short and he doesn’t recognize he is in danger?
  • What if I’m not teaching enough and something happens and he’s not prepared?

 

So many crimes could have been prevented if we as parents gave more attention to teaching kids preventive safety.

(You can test your child's safety level here).

 

The real reason I broke the safety rules:

Back to the story.

I had a piano. A huge, glossy instrument has been delivered the day before and was sitting in my room unwrapped.

Such a bummer – I couldn’t play. The sound was discordant – it needed tuning.

Mom said someone from the music company should come in the evening to fix it. What? I had to wait for another day?

I was in my room doing my homework.

The doorbell rang, the dog was barking.

“This is not my mom – mom has a key,” I thought.

I did not respond.

One more persistent doorbell buzzed, and one more.

I was curious:

“Who is so annoying? These are not salespeople.

Someone probably needs something”.

What your kids are not telling you when they break safety rules

What kids don't tell you when they break safety rules - a girl smiling

I tiptoed to the door and peeked into the peephole.

Apparently, my dog and I made enough noise for the man to know someone was home.

The glass was blurry, but I saw a young man in a leather jacket standing in front of the door. I couldn’t hear well through the door. He said:

-“Hey, I came to tune your piano. I was driving by and realized I was close to your house, so I decided to try to come earlier”.

I didn’t say anything.

He kept talking:

- “I live on the other side of the city 30 miles away. Your order is the last one for today. I would need to wait for a couple of hours till 7 pm. Can I do it now instead, please?”

- “Mom said not to open the door to strangers,” I thought hesitantly, but didn’t say a word.

He pointed to the black leather tool case in his hands:

- “Here are my tools.”

“Why should I trust you?” I still thought, hanging around the door.

 

Then he said something that changed my mind:

- “I need some help. Can I please come in and tune your piano now, because, otherwise, I will need to wait for 5 hours somewhere until the evening?”

 

This final drop disrupted my safety scenario:

“Okay, he knows I have a piano, he has tools and it feels like he needs HELP,” I concluded.

 

In my mind, his reasoning totally made sense.

I let him in ...

 

The surprising thing was how much fun it was to watch him work. He took all his screwdrivers, wrenches, and millet out.

- “Would you like to come over and see what’s inside of your piano?” he asked.

I came closer and touched the strings. The smell of machine oil and wood was tickling my nose. And the sound! Now the sound was bold and clean. It felt awesome.

What I never expected

In the evening I was so proud to tell my parents  about my achievements:

  • I've got my piano tuned
  • I learned a new song
  • I helped someone

I felt I acted like a “big girl” capable of making her own decisions... before I told the story to my mom.

Her face went pale as a ghost, and she looked really worried.

“Are you okay, darling? He did not do anything bad, did he?” she asked.

- “Oh, no. It was fun – he showed me what’s inside the piano”, I replied.

 

We had a long conversation that evening.

That was the first time:

  1. I learned there were bad people who could trick kids.
  2. Adults are not supposed to ask kids for help and should call the parents.
  3. Weird strangers can look nice.

Related article: 8 unsafe situations that should alert you and your child

 

Why kids break safety rules

 

Looking back, I cannot believe I had zero hesitance to strangers.

Neither could my parents imagine such a scenario.

Let me repeat this: My parents could never imagine such a scenario.

 

I knew the rule not to open the door.

But I did not understand the consequences of breaking it.

 

! This is one of the fundamental mistakes - teaching isolated rules without incorporating them into a system.

 

How many times do we teach our kids some rules without explaining why they work that way?

And without reasoning of what happens if you break them?

 

Do not make this mistake.

 

! Instead, teach your child safety as a system versus teaching how to respond to isolated situations.

 

It does not come with age - many grown-ups fall into the same troubles as kids do.

For example, one of the classic manipulations to trick a grown-up woman to open the door is playing a recording of a baby crying on her front porch.

You can not imagine how many scenarios of scams and manipulations exist.

And you can not teach them all to your child.

You can read about the 8 most popular tricks used against kids here.

The full list of classic manipulative scenarios is long and predators always make something new.

(On a side note, IRS has a list of the most recent financial scam scenarios - check it out - you may be surprised how creative it goes).

 

Your child needs to understand safety as a system so that he can handle situations you have never discussed.

Safety is a skill that needs to be built. It doesn't build itself.

Tricky people - how to teach your child about help requests from strangers - post cover

Enroll in a Free online course for parents of kids 3-10 years old

"Teach Your Child Safety With People"

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Free mini-course: Teach your child safety with strangers in a positive, hands-on way - post cover - a girl in white shorts and t-shirt and red scarf

Act, do not react.

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I just wanted to tell you that you are an amazing parent because you chose to tackle a really challenging subject!

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