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It’s time to educate your children about dealing with strangers

As your little ones begin to grow up and reach the age when they can venture away from Mom and Dad occasionally, you'll want to make sure they're prepared to safely handle themselves around strangers. Whether it's riding bikes around the neighborhood or hanging out at the town playground, your children should be able to recognize and avoid suspicious behavior from people they don't know.

First of all, you may want to explain that while not all strangers are mean or dangerous, you can't make a judgment one way or another based on appearances alone – not all bad people are going to look like cartoon villains. Consider making a rule that your kids avoid contact with strangers. Under no circumstances should they ever follow, accept gifts or get into a vehicle with a strange person.

If for some reason you need to get in contact with your children via someone they don't recognize – a friend or coworkers of yours, for example – consider developing a family "safe word" that indicates you sent the person there.

However, sometimes your children will need to seek out strangers when they need help. In times like these, it's important that you help your children recognize friendly strangers like police officers, teachers or firefighters who can provide assistance. You can assist your children in finding these people easily by informing them of safe places to seek help – doctor's offices, local school, police stations or fire houses.

By teaching your children about the dangers of dealing with strangers along with strategies to stay safe, you'll help them mature into discerning, intelligent young people.