Thursday, December 2, 2010

How serious is stranger danger in school?

Ms. Dorothy,
Our daughter _______ came home one day saying one of the “old men” that worked at her school told her he loved her and hugged her. It made her EXTREMELY uncomfortable. I'm sure it wasn't anything to be worried about, but I don't want to ignore it either. I'm not sure how I should handle it. What would you suggest?
- Mom of a 1st Grader

You are probably right that there isn't anything to worry about, but you are also right to take it seriously.

Sometimes we can over-sensitize our children when we teach them to be aware of strangers, and they end up afraid of everyone they don't know. While this can keep them out of trouble, it can also leave them feeling fearful of situations that are actually harmless.

It is important to let your daughter know that you will take what she says seriously, but it is also important to try and assess the real significance of the situation.

Going to the school with her, and introducing yourself to the "old man" that gave her a hug is the best place to start. You can explain to him that she is very shy and sensitive and prefers not to be approached when she is without you.
This will let her know that you will protect her and take her seriously, and it may diffuse some of the stranger fear she is feeling about him.

Background checks are required of all school employees, so the benefit of the doubt isn't out of order. Even so, if it feels at all wrong to you, go straight to the administrator and report the situation.

Most of all, make sure that she knows who she can go to in the school if she ever feels that her safety is in question.

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