One key component of The Stranger Safety Awareness Program is centered around the word "Trust". When we dissect the word "Trust", you can see that the word is held together by the letters "u" & "s". Our Educational Coordinator, Patrick Chierichella, likes to point out that when you examine the word "Trust", you can see a bridge created by "us". Pat concludes that without "us", meaning the two people involved, you and me, there can be no trust - it takes both of "us" to trust one another. A bond needs to be formed. Before you can trust someone, some type of relationship needs to be established.
In our very first lesson of The Stranger Safety Awareness Program, we discuss the need for a formal introduction. In early childhood, these introductions are controlled by our parents. Later, as we go to school, proper introductions take on a less formal nature since our teachers introduce us to new students. Trust becomes implied through the school atmosphere. The same type of progress exists in our personal life, as we meet new people, ie. distant cousins, next-door neighbors, friends around the block, and friends in the neighborhood.
Take the time to review a few important items with your children:
Practice making a formal introduction with your child. Pretend that you do not know each other and state your name, and extend your hand to handshake.
After your introduction, you now introduce your child to a third person. Again, pretending is key here, since you are doing this in a safe, controlled environment.
Explain to your child that now that Mom & Dad have introduced you to that person, they may now start to trust that person.
Also explain to your child what SPECIFICALLY they may trust about that person. Remind them that though you trust that person, they are not to go with that person without your permission.
Finally, explain to your child that if they are not formally introduced to a person from someone who you have established trust - that person is a STRANGER.
A STRANGER is someone who they do not know, haven't been formally introduced to and can NEVER be trusted!
This activity will open the door to further communication. Encourage your child to ask you more questions. Questions such as "why can't I trust a stranger"? will give you the opportunity to explain that not all strangers are dangerous, but all strangers are not to be trusted if they ask your child to go someplace with them or help them in some way or approach their car, etc. The more questions and imagination that your child brings into the discussion, the better you can prepare them for a potentially dangerous encounter with a stranger. Remember, the purpose of The Stranger Safety Program is to teach children what to do BEFORE a stranger approaches. Since you are the very first person that your child has ever trusted, this activity is best taught to them by you.