“Don’t talk to strangers” has forever been the slogan of personal safety education. However, statistics indicate that most abductions or sexually exploitations are committed by someone who is close to the child.

According to the Marie-Vincent Foundation 99% of sexual assaults experienced by children met by the Foundation knew their abuser. In almost 75% of cases, it was an immediate or extended family member.

Well-intentioned adults perpetuate the misguided “stranger-danger” message. However, we now know that this can cause more harm rather than equip children with an effective safety strategy to help protect them.


The “stranger” approach to safety can cause confusion for younger children as adults interact and speak to “strangers” every day. For instance, when you are in a store, and you talk to the cashier or even to a waiter. A “stranger” can be an abstract concept for children because they often associate that word with someone who seems ugly or mean. However, perpetrators often try to appear friendly and lure children in by being nice.

It’s important to start teaching your child how to be safe at a young age. Without transmitting your own fears or anxieties, so that we can help them build a toolkit that they can access the rest of their lives. Once the child understands certain concepts of danger, it’s important to address the subject when they bring it up.


  • Remind them of the importance of always asking permission before going anywhere.
    • As a parent, it is important to be aware of where and with whom your children are.
  • Make sure they understand the importance of always being with someone they know when they come home from school or play outside (buddy system).
  • Teach them to listen to their instincts and express their discomfort when they are in situations where they do not feel comfortable.
    • Remind them that they always have the right to say NO! to anyone when they are afraid or feel uncomfortable, even if it is a family member, friend, or teacher, etc.
    • If they feel uneasy in a situation, it is important for the child to understand that they can discuss it with a trusted safe adult.

The concept of safe adults can be vague for some children. Of course, you shouldn’t trust appearances, but how do you distinguish a good person from a bad person?

How to identify trusted adults

It’s imperative to show your children who they can turn to in case of need, whether in their daily life (family, teacher, sports coach, etc.) or during their outdoor outings (security guard, store employee, police officer, firefighter, neighbour, etc.) It’s important they understand that in an emergency, most adults are well-intentioned and concerned about their well-being:

Teach your child to ask themself the following 3 questions that will help them to make safe decisions in any situation. It is important to explain to them that one NO! equals don’t go!

  1. Do I have a good feeling? (Listen to their Alarm System)
  2. Will my parents know where I am? (Ask Permission)
  3. Will I be able to find help if I need it? (Buddy System)

We believe that it’s important to inform children about their personal safety in a positive way so that they can build their self-esteem and self-confidence. We are their safe place, so it is important that the child knows that we are always there to listen. Do not hesitate to talk to them about personal safety daily by giving them “What would you do if” scenarios, that will help them develop the necessary skills to react wisely and safely if they ever find themself in a potentially risky situation.

“What would you do if” Scenarios:

  • What would you do if you were lost in a public place or on the street?
  • Tell them to look for a safe adult. Take the time with your child to explain who they can ask for help. They can talk to a store employee or someone you trust like a neighbour.
  • What would you do if someone in a car stopped near you and asked you to help them find their dog?
  1. Tell your child to keep three giant steps between them and the car. If the person asks them to accompany him, they must refuse. Remind your child that it is always important to think about our safety equation.

Talking about their concerns can be difficult for your child or your teen, but it is important for the child to understand that a family member is always there to help, support or provide resources during difficult times.

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