Stranger safety

Teach your child to trust and respect police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses and other public safety people.

Although stranger abduction is rare, you must teach your child how to be safe.

  • Talk to your child about stranger danger. Remember, child abductors don't always look or act differently. A stranger is someone your child may see at the playground, but does not know.
  • Always go with your child to the bathroom when in a public place. Do not let your child wander in a store alone.
  • Do not leave your child alone to play outside.
  • Walk your child to and from the bus stop.
  • Practice scenarios where strangers may try to entice or grab your child:
    • "My puppy is lost. Can you help me find it?"
    • "Your mom and dad are hurt and asked me to take you to the hospital."
    • "I'm lost. Can you tell me how to get to the store? I have a toy or candy for you."
    • Talk to your child in a calm, loving way so she doesn't become scared. Reinforce these scenarios every now and then. Just telling her once isn't enough.
  • Teach your child how to scream, run or kick if a stranger tries to take her.
  • Identify a "safe house" in your neighborhood or apartment/townhouse complex your child can go to if she is threatened or locked out of your house. Create a "safe plan" with the neighbors to return or pick up your child.
  • Teach your child about "good" touch and "bad" touch. Use proper names for body parts.
  • Teach your child to tell you if she feels uncomfortable around any adult or older child. Create a loving environment so your child will feel safe talking about her feelings.
  • Boost your child's self-esteem. Children who are confident aren't as vulnerable as children who have low self-esteem and a lack of parental supervision.

According to the FBI, other tips for making sure your child is safe include:

  • Share a secret code word with your child. Make it a word that is easy to remember. Share this code word with family and friends.
    • Tell your child to ask for the code word if a stranger asks for her to go somewhere (to find a missing pet, to go to the hospital).
    • If the stranger doesn't know the code word, tell your child to scream and run away as fast as possible.
  • Tell your child that adults should not ask kids to do things other adults can do for them. Adults should not ask your child for directions, to get in a car, to help them do something.
    • If asked for help, your child should say, "Wait here and I'll check with my mom" and run for help.
  • If your child gets separated from you in a public place, find an employee to help find your child. Tell your child to do the same. Tell your child not to hide if she is scared.
  • Tell your child to talk to you before:
    • going anywhere with anyone
    • leaving the yard, play area or going into someone's home
    • getting a ride with someone other than the bus driver
    • getting into a car or going somewhere with someone even if it's a person you know
  • Teach your child to stay away if someone follows her on foot or in a car. Remind your child not to go near a car to talk to the people inside.
  • Teach your child that it's OK to say "no."
  • Have your child fingerprinted and keep the fingerprints in a safe place.
  • Teach your child her full name, address and phone number. Teach her when to share this information.
  • Teach your child how to use the telephone and how to dial 911.

For more information on child safety, visit the following websites:

The least common type of missing children, nonfamily abductions, has the greatest risk of injury or death for the abducted child.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or "she" and "him" or "her."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016

Keep current photos of your child and know her height and weight.
Did you know?
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the largest number of missing children are runaways, followed by family abductions and lost, injured or otherwise missing children.