Beware Of Strangers…Unless They’re Dressed Like A Kid’s TV Character!

As L gets older, ‘stranger danger’ is something I’m becoming more conscious about. Increasingly, she’s spending less time with me due to things like school, so ensuring that she’s aware of potential dangers in relation to unknown people is an important lesson to teach.

It’s a balance though. You don’t want to scare them, create a fear of strangers or prevent them from talking to people they don’t know, but you need to ensure that they’re aware enough to spot danger and know how to react to it accordingly. It’s not the nicest lesson to think about, but sadly there’s some not nice folk out there and this is the world we now live in.

The topic of ‘strangers and people who help us’ was something discussed with L when she was at nursery, so this naturally gave her an awareness and curiosity to find out more. For instance, she was aware that “we shouldn’t talk to people we don’t know” and that “police are good people who will help me” through teachings at nursery.

Since then, we’ve tried to take it a couple of steps further to connect all of the dots in her little brain. For example, we’ve ensured that she knows her full name and Mummy and Daddy’s full names, plus also taught her our home address. The idea being that she knows this info if she ever needs it – rather than, say, shouting it out on the school playground for all to hear.

We’ve also asked her hypothetical situational questions to see how she’d react – for instance, “what would you do if a man came up to you at the park and asked if you wanted to go to his house to look at his puppies?” or the classic “what would you do if a woman stopped her car and offered you some sweets?”.

Beware Of Strangers...Unless They're Dressed Like A Kid's TV Character L in police car

By making this a conversation with her, she’s now aware of certain situations and how to react. Hopefully it would never happen and is a moot point anyway, but I have confidence that she is aware of certain circumstances and would know the appropriate reaction, i.e. run away, shout loudly, go into a shop and tell someone etc.

Although the message of ‘stay away from strangers’ is relatively simplistic, I can’t help but think that us parents sometimes offer mixed messages which can confuse our kids. The other day, we were in the bank and three separate old women struck up conversations with L as we waited. These were all strangers, but I actively encouraged her to chat to them and answer their questions.

Part of this was to not appear rude, another part was to give a positive impression of ‘a dad out with his kids’ and another part was because these 80-year old women didn’t look like your typical child abductors or molesters. However, it did make me think about the “don’t talk to strangers” rhetoric.

Then there’s places like theme parks where we actively encourage our kids to go up to complete strangers, hug them, pose with them and even take photos of the encounter. Sure, these people may look like one of her favourite characters from film, book or TV, but they’re not, are they? They’re random men and women masquerading as her favourite characters. They’re strangers.

How confusing must this be for kids? “Now, young lady, you should never talk to strangers…unless they’re seven foot tall and you recognise them from the Toy Story franchise”, or “Remember, son, never let a stranger touch you…unless they’re dressed up in a silly outfit which conceals their true identity from the world”.

Then there’s the big guy himself – Santa. We all know that Father Christmas is real, but we also know that he’s too busy to visit every makeshift shopping arcade, garden centre and soft play grotto in the land, so he enlists the help of official lookalikes. Fake Santas, or Fantas, if you like.

 

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The magical moment when you meet Santa…

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Despite knowing this, how keen are we as parents to push our kids into his magical presence? We know it’s not THE Santa and instead just a random old man in a red suit with a fake beard, yet we’re still happy to leave our kids with him. “Go on, sit on his knee. I bet he’s got a big surprise for you. Look he’s even got his sack out ready…”

Now, I’m not saying that all of the people dressed up in these costumes are wrong ‘uns intent on grooming our kids. I would imagine that they’ve been vetted, are model employees and regularly have their hard-drives examined. But, they also could be. That’s the point – we don’t know, but we’re happy to put aside the concept of stranger danger when someone is dressed up like a Disney cartoon character.

If you wanted to take it one step further – which I will – logic would even suggest that there’d be a higher percentage of paedos dressed like Elsa, Peppa Pig or Bing because they know that parents are more trusting and have their guard down. If anything, we should be even more suspicious of strangers when they’re wearing a gigantic, foam head.

Obviously, I’m being deliberately facetious here – but, I am trying to raise a valid point. Not only is it funny / strange how our parenting perceptions and rules change depending on the situation, but it may go someway to explaining why our kids never seem to listen to us properly. How can they dribble and score on the football pitch that is parenting when the goalposts continually move?!

So how do I summarise a post like this? Well, erm, (1) stranger danger is probably something to teach kids from a young age, (2) as parents we should consider what we say and then how we act to avoid confusion in our kids, and (3) people dressed up as a kid’s TV character aren’t necessarily paedos…but they might be…so be careful!

Now, here’s a few photos of some of the children’s TV characters – who, remember are actually strangers underneath the costume and not the real thing – who we’ve met over the last few years.

Exploring Family Days Out In Herts, Beds And Bucks With Kia Stonic woburn safari park pj masks meet and greet

ampshire Hants Holiday Paultons Park Peppa Pig World tv

 

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Having a boogie before bed with the one, the only, Ubercorn at @AltonTowers @CbeebiesLand Hotel.

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Just hanging out with this fella. Got to admit, he’s a bit bigger in real life than I’d imagined…

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Met these three today at @willowsactivityfarm. Not sure who was most excited – me, her or Pink Bear

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