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How Parents Should Talk to Kids About Stranger Danger

This article is written by Erin Murray. It was posted August 31, 2016 on wo​wt.com.

With stranger danger warnings coming from many metro school districts, parents are on high alert. But with the confirmed accounts there have also been some false reports too.

"There is nothing scarier than something like this,” said a metro parent.

"It scares me someone is out there doing this to our children,” a parent told WOWT 6 News.

With all the hype after recent incidents, parenting expert Laura Buddenberg says there is something we should all remember.

"First take a deep breath and be calm,” said Buddenberg.

While most stranger danger incidents have merit, a few in recent weeks have proven to not be true. So instead of panic, Buddenberg said think "education."

"If you are upset or appear agitated when you talk to your kids, it is harder for them to hear you, and they will get scared when they don't need to be,” Buddenberg told WOWT 6 News.

Things that should be in every conversation:

  1. Who is a stranger?
    a. Someone you have never met. You don’t know who they are, and someone that 'mom or dad' has said it is not OK to talk to or go with.
  2. You don’t have to talk to a stranger:
    a. You are not being impolite if you walk away and don’t talk to them.
    b. If they keep talking, shout 'no; loudly and run away. Then report it to an adult.
  3. Practice this with your kid:
    a. Have kids show you what they will say and what they will do if they're approached by a stranger.

Stranger danger should be a fluid conversation throughout a kid's childhood, so when alerts from schools or police do come out, kids feel prepared and not scared. Buddenberg says when going over stranger danger with kids, it's good to first give them some assurance.

"It isn't because I don't trust you. It is because I love you and I want you to be safe,” she said.

She said parents should also be wary about what they read on social media; never be afraid to confirm with police or school districts about the validity of a threat.

"Don't hesitate to call them and report if you have a concern. Or if you have a question about a concern they have raised,” Buddenberg said. “If your kid comes and tells you something, your first duty is to report. Then, you may figure out that your kid got swept up in something, maybe embellished a little bit. Don’t panic. That is the time to go back and tell them about the importance of telling the truth.”

Parents with questions, or kids who want to talk can call the Boys Town National Hotline for help. The number is 1-800-448-3000.