Another question I struggle with sometimes, as a parent, is when I should talk to my kids about being approached by strangers or as some call it, stranger danger.
So a quick story for you. When I was about 10 years old, I stayed after school to help out my favourite teacher with something. And when I left to come home, it was starting to get dark as it was the dead of winter. I started the trek home through the snow and noticed not a person in sight. This in itself unnerved me. To get home, I had to walk through two empty fields separated by a hill. As I headed towards the hill, someone on a vehicle of some sort, maybe an atv, came out of nowhere and started heading towards me. This scared me and I felt the need to run, so I did. But where I ran was not the smartest place for me to run. To the right of the hill was the forest, and within view of entering the forest was a play structure with tires leading up to a platform about 10 feet off the ground and this is where I ended up. On top of the play structure with nowhere to go. The man on the vehicle drove into the forest, pulled up at the bottom of the tires I had just climbed, looked at me for too long of a time period as if contemplating something, then abruptly left. All the while I am on top of this structure basically trapped if he had decided to come up to me. This left me shaken and scared. After I knew he was gone for good, I climbed down and ran home. I told my mom what happened and she called the cops to file a report and I provided a description of the man.
Now looking back, there was really nowhere for me to run to as I was in the middle of a field. There were no houses, and no people in sight. So I can’t say what would have been a better choice.
This experience left me with a heightened sense of awareness of my surroundings. Even as a young person I was always looking around to ensure nothing weird or odd was happening. As an adult, the same, only now I take notice of things like emergency exits, people who are alone in places like kids parks, school yards, people with cameras at waterparks, my mind is always busy and curious about the intentions of those around me. Throw kids into the mix and it’s tenfold.
What are some important tips that we as parents can impart on our young ones about how to deal with situations that can be potentially dangerous to them? It is basically the same as it always was. Here is a review of some of the more important tips:
1) Be aware of your surroundings. Take note of people in vehicles that are parked not doing anything constructive. Also take note of cars travelling slowly around neighbourhoods, especially where there are kids.
2) Safety in numbers! Always travel with a buddy or a group of friends. And never walk off by yourself when out in a busy public place.
3) If a stranger tries to coax you into their vehicle using offers of candy, lost puppies or an injured parent, run away fast! Then tell someone you trust about the incident be it your parent, teacher, principal or a policeman as soon as possible.
4) Don’t answer the door when/if home alone. These days people only knock or ring if they are expected. Otherwise, do not feel obligated to open the door.
5) If a stranger ends up chasing you, run to the closest house and bang on their door.
Which leads me to my last point. Did you know the Block Parent program is still active? I just found out myself. If you have kids, this might be something you are interested in doing. I myself will be looking into it. If you’d like more information, click here: http://blockparents.ca/becoming-a-block-parent/
Without causing too much alarm, there have been a few instances of kids being approached by strangers in the Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge areas over the last couple of weeks. What a better time to bring the Block Parent program to your neighbourhood. This kind of program, coupled with vigilante parents and educated, informed kids, helps us become safer and less vulnerable to potential predators. Because it truly does take a village people!
*If you or your child experience an instance of being approached in an unwanted way, or are ever in a situation where you feel your safety is threatened, do not hesitate to contact the police and report your experience. They are there to help.