Stranger Safety

The answer?  BOTH of them.

This last Monday, a Santa Rosa mom came across a scene that left a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach. A man was talking to two children on the street, and something about the interaction didn’t seem right.

“I watched the two children and their interaction with the man for a few seconds,” Wendy Hilderman wrote, “and noticed that the man, as he talked to the kids, was bending down trying to hold the girl’s hand.”

She was driving at the time, and it would have been real easy to shake it off and keep right on going. But her instincts told her something was up, and she stopped her car to see what was going on. The man at first told her to go away, but he then ran off when she hopped out to come to the kids’ rescue.

You can read the story here.

I find this story terrifying. What if she hadn’t stopped? If I had been the one who saw this exchange, would I have stopped?

What if it were MY child in that situation?

I think what Wendy Hilderman did was incredibly brave. She put the kids’ safety in front of her comfort and own safety. She could have been wrong. Much worse, he could have been armed. And yet, her quick thinking saved two children from dangers untold. I shudder to think what could have happened had she not driven by at that exact time, or had ignored the instinct that was pulling at her. Because of her, these two kids are safe at home.

If my child happened to be in an unsafe situation and I wasn’t close enough to be the eyes and ears of safety, I would hope to God that someone like Wendy Hilderman were around with the courage to speak up and protect my children. I would hope that any child would have someone like that near them in times of danger.

And I take inspiration from this brave mom, for her determination in letting her instincts speak louder than her convenience or fear of the unknown. We should all strive to be like her – keeping alert enough to be aware of what’s going on around us.

Not only that, this is just one more reminder that it’s another great time to speak with our kids about the danger of strangers, and how to interact with them.

A common misconception with kids is that a stranger is someone that looks scary. But really, a stranger is someone they don’t know. A stranger can look menacing and like they’re bound to hurt them. But a stranger can also look like somebody’s grandmother, a friendly father, or a person the same age as their babysitter. The most important thing you can teach your child is that it is ok to say NO to an adult. It is not impolite to refuse to go with someone they don’t know. And if that person won’t listen, then, as the National Crime Prevention Council advises, the child should “No, Go, Yell, Tell” – Say NO, run away, make a lot of noise, and then tell a trusted adult what happened. A trusted adult is someone they know, or a “safe stranger” like a policeman, firefighter, or teacher.  Exchanges with safe strangers should be done in a public place if at all possible.

These same rules apply for when an adult they know gives them an uneasy feeling because of something they’ve done or said.

Have you talked with your kids about strangers? What are some things parents should share with their kids to help them to be safe?


2 thoughts on “Stranger Safety

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  1. So happy you wrote about this. I came across a GREAT video called “Stranger Safety”. It was put on by John Walsh (from America’s Most Wanted). It points out who are your “safe side adults” and “kinda know’s”. It’s very funny and my children love to watch it. We practice yelling “Help, you’re not my mom, you’re not my dad”. I even bought the video for a local school to help with their safety program. Everyone should talk to your children about these difficult issues!

  2. I posted that article on my Facebook page. Always trust your instincts.

    I remember one time, maybe a year ago, not far from the Santa Rosa police station, I saw a man in a small car, pulled over, window down, talking to two very small girls on the sidewalk. This was eastbound on Sonoma Avenue so there was the passenger seat between him and the girls. Still… There were adults nearby, 10-20 feet away, so I didn’t stop. If I ever see anything like that again, I will pull over and stop. Depending on the situation, I might or might not get out of my car but I would definitely be obviously observing.

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