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Mommy Motivations

Debunking Stranger Danger Myth

People Danger Rather than Stranger Danger Debunking Myth

Debunking Stranger Danger Myth With Children and how to recognize any danger from any individual and what to do to keep safety as a top priority.

“Stranger danger” is the notion that all [and only] strangers can potentially be dangerous. It is an example of a moral hysteria that individuals experience about anyone unfamiliar around them. In short, the phrase encapsulates the danger associated with adults whom children do not know. However, not just strangers or adults can pose a danger to a child. Family members, friends, neighbors, and teachers can equal danger too. Danger can happen anywhere, even in own home. So, the term should be instead people danger ~ what they do and how they make a child feel. Moreover, a stranger does not necessarily equal danger, as some strangers can be helpful in times of crisis, such as police officer or a guard. That is why debunking the stranger danger myth with children is essential to keep safety a top priority. Anyone can be dangerous, not just strangers. So, children need to know how to look for clues of danger and what to do.

Debunking Stranger Danger Myth

Any Individual Can Be or Become Unsafe

Unsafe people come in all sizes, shapes, genders, and ages.

For example, Pattie Fitzgerald, the founder of Safely Ever After, Inc., notes that potentially dangerous people might not always look like big scary men, but they can look like a mom, a sweet grandpa, or even appear dressed as or impersonate someone else. Sometimes they might seem and look even nice and inviting.

Instead of How They Look, Focus on What They Do and How They Make You Feel

How Does This Act Make You Feel | Debunking Stranger Danger Myth

If a child feels uncomfortable, sad, angry, upset, lonely, yucky, or scared from the presence of a person, either a stranger or a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a teacher, a classmate, or anyone, teach a child to tell someone they trust immediately. Emphasize that an incident must be reported right away, not later or the next day. Tell a child never to be afraid to tell the truth.

You don’t have to be polite if someone makes you feel scared or uncomfortable. It’s okay to say NO, even to a grownup, says Pattie Fitzgerald.

If you get that feeling inside that something just is not right, say NO! and follow your instincts!

I Said No! book

Focus on What They Do ~ Red Flag Alert

You can explain to a child that some acts might warn a “red flag” alert, as explained in the I Said No! book. For example, when people, who are not taking care of the child, might want to see or touch a child’s private parts, tell a child to “put up a red flag!”

People Danger Rather than Stranger Danger Debunking Myth
People Danger Rather than Stranger Danger Debunking Myth

Debunking Stranger Danger Myth

Other Examples That Might Render a Red Flag Situation

Explain to a child | Debunking Stranger Danger Myth

  1. Never leave or go anywhere with someone you do not know if your parent or guardian has not given you permission.
  2. If someone tries to take your hand, or grab you, call for help.
  3. If someone asks for help, do not engage. Or, if a stranger asks a question, do not answer and walk away. Generally, adults in crisis will ask another adult for help, not a child,” said Pattie Fitzgerald.
  4. Never take anything from someone you do not know, whether they are offering candy, a doll, or a bike. Explain the difference between a bribe from a stranger and a treat from someone you know. A bribe is when someone offers you money or a treat to do that you do not want to do or normally would not do, explains King in I Said No! book.
  5. Ask a parent/guardian, in situations when they are not around, to whom you can speak. 
  6. When someone says “don’t tell,” always tell what they have told you.

Always tell someone you trust about any interactions with a stranger.

Telling makes bad things stop! Telling helps a child feel better!

Debunking Stranger Danger Myth

Stanger Danger can Dissuade a Child from Seeking Help When Needed

  1. Some people you do not know might be helpful. For example, a policeman, a security guard, or a store clerk do not equal danger merely because a child never saw them. 
  2. Have a “safe list” of people children can go with (such as on carpools) when parents are not around.
  3. Look for identifiable marks that a stranger can be safe for a child to approach. For example, a police officer with a badge, a store clerk with a name tag, or a person wearing a uniform in Disney World Park.

Teach This To A Child: “You can Ask for Help. But when someone asks You, put up a red Flag!”

Approach a stranger and ask for help when you are in crisis or need help. For example, when you are lost or when there is an accident or a threat. When a stranger asks you to do something, don’t do it and tell a person you trust about it.


How to Deal with Stranger Anxiety in Young Children

Fear of strangers can also come from stranger anxiety, which is an absolutely normal developmental stage. However, “people danger” must be distinguished from stranger anxiety. The former can be a valid source of threat, while the latter is a subjective apprehension of fear in children when no danger might objectively exist.

What is stranger anxiety?

Stranger anxiety is a normal emotional phase when a child cries or becomes distressed when an unknown or unfamiliar person approaches or attempts to hold them.

When Does Stranger Anxiety Occur

Stranger anxiety is a normal developmental stage that often begins around 6 to 9 months, peaks between 12 and 15 months, and usually diminishes by two years. However, some children outgrow it sooner. Stranger anxiety is connected with a child’s developmental task of distinguishing the familiar from the unfamiliar. Both the intensity and duration of such anxiety vary significantly among children.

So, if your typically social baby or toddler suddenly starts crying or screaming when someone unfamiliar approaches, know that stranger anxiety is normal behavior for young children.

Stranger Anxiety in Babies

A six-month-old baby begins to know whether someone is a stranger, and by nine months, they may be afraid of strangers or too attached to a caregiver. So, stranger anxiety usually starts around 8 or 9 months of age. However, as a baby learns to understand object permanence (the fact that a caregiver does not disappear forever when gone out of sight), they learn to be more tolerant of separations and of unfamiliar people.

Stranger Anxiety in Toddlers

Stranger anxiety also occurs in toddlers, often between 12 and 24 months. During this time, a child might perceive anyone other than a caregiver as a threat or cause of distress, even if that person (formerly) was a favorite grandma.

Experts are not exactly sure why toddler stranger anxiety suddenly occurs. Besides, some children are seized by it, while others never experience it at all,” explains Jennifer Kelly Geddes.

However, experts know that stranger anxiety is a normal part of a child’s maturation and an indication that a child has a healthy and nutritive bond with a caregiver.

Did you enjoy this article on Debunking Stranger Danger Myth and What to Do Instead? Leave a comment if you did.

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