H has a school trip in a few weeks. His whole class are off to visit a museum. It will be so much fun for him and I am trying to be excited, but deep down I am worried sick. The chances of anything happening are very slim, but in my mind there is still THAT chance. Like most 4 year-old’s he is extremely trusting of adults. He is also very sociable and will chat away to anyone that engages him in conversation. Most of the time this is fine as not all strangers have an ulterior sinister motive, but there are some that are not so nice. In preparation for the trip I tried to have the “stranger danger” conversation.
Unfortunately I think I scared him half to death. The conversation took a turn towards telling him how some strangers try to take children away from their mummy’s and daddy’s. I admit my approach was a little too heavy handed as I was far too keen to get the message across. I also didn’t take in to consideration his age and using age appropriate language. The end result was a pensive child who started to have nightmares, and wouldn’t be left alone in a room. Every day I got questions about children being stolen, and asked where the “child-robbers” were. It reached a point where he instructed me to close the curtains in case the child-robbers saw him. It was a complete epic parenting fail. I should have just stuck to the facts – quite simply a stranger is someone you don’t know.
During my second attempt I adopted a far different approach. As he is only 4 I kept the list small and relevant to the activity he was doing.
Do’s and Dont’s
- Always make sure the teacher knows where you are – stay close to her.
- If you need the toilet don’t just wander off. Always ask the teacher to go with you.
- Hold hands at all times.
- Remember mummy and daddy’s name, and the name of your school. Home address is a bonus. (I know I can put a note in his pocket but this is the fail safe should he misplace it).
- Don’t accept anything off anyone you don’t know.
- Tell the teacher if a stranger tries to talk to you.
- Never go off with anyone that isn’t the teacher.
- If a stranger is making you do something you don’t want or you feel scared shout NO really loud so that everyone can hear you.
Getting the points across was easier this time because I was:
I explained to him that “bad” strangers aren’t always as they appear in the books and films. We practised a few role-playing exercises where I asked him what he would do if “a nice kind lady offered him a sweet”, “someone said they wanted to show him something around the corner”, that sort of thing.
I was determined not to repeat the previous attempt and put the fear of god in to him. So I spoke slowly and didn’t project my own fears on to him. The world IS a wonderful place and it would be shame for me to ruin that for him at his age.
I had the answers. I’d done more research. I gave him tips on what to do which gave me the confidence he understood, and him confidence on how to deal with it.
Thankfully the nightmares have stopped and he isn’t following me around the house like my shadow. He is also looking forward to his trip. I am looking forward to hearing all about his adventure knowing I have prepared him to the best of my ability.
Do you have any other hints and tips to share?