Dawn I. says she "freaked out" after using her state's Megan's Law website to find out if there were registered sex offenders live in her family's new neighborhood. When the site revealed that there are indeed 69 offenders in her immediate area, she went back online to ask other Circle of Moms members, "How do I keep my daughter safe?"
With headlines broadcasting the frightening details of the Sandusky case at Penn State, moms are talking about ways to arm children with the skills they'll need to protect themselves in an encounter with a predatory adult. Here are five key safety skills and messages for your children, from Circle of Moms members.
1. Be aware of your surroundings
Teaching your child to be aware of her surroundings is one of the first steps to helping him ward off encounters with dangerous strangers, says Teyaka R. "I tell my children that if something doesn't look right, walk away. If you get a weird feeling, go home. It's small things that can make a world of difference."
2. Recognize inappropriate touch
It's also important to talk with your child about which kinds of adult touch and behavior are appropriate and which kinds are not, says Toni M. Erin L. adds that pointing out which parts are private is an important part of this discussion, and that parents should use the correct terms for a child's privates: "I know this is going to sound strange, but we need to teach our daughters the proper terms for their privates. When I was a Sunday School teacher, I took a class in child abuse/molestation to be able to recognize the signs. We watched a video in which sex offenders admitted that the easiest children to victimize were the ones who did not know the proper names. I have two boys (3 years old and 18 months) and both of them are learning to call their privates penis and testicles."
3. Recognize and stay away from known offenders
If there is a known dangerous person in your neighborhood, warn your child who that is and tell him to avoid that person, advises Laura S. "I have instructed my daughter to never be around him without me or her dad present," she says, referring to a neighbor who is a known pedophile.
4. Know how to get help
Children trust adults and can be very compliant, so it's important not only to help them recognize a situation that's dangerous or inappropriate, but to teach them how to get help. Teresa recommends letting your children know "that other adults – including you – are around in the neighborhood and they should run for help if they are approached, and scream."
5. Know that you can always come to me
Many moms stress that keeping the lines of communication open with your child is key, and that it's critical to overcome your own hesitance to broach difficult subjects. "It's important that your child know she can turn to you if something does happen, "says Toni M.
In addition, Circle of Moms members say it's also wise to teach your kids how to deal with dangerous strangers online. "My children are always supervised online and only computer is is in the lounge and we are protected to the hilt," says Clare G. "I couldn't agree more with staying on top of internet security and urge all parents to [do] the same."
For more information on teaching kids to stay safe, visit the KidPower library.
How do you coach your child to deal with dangerous strangers?
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