“What Would You Do?”: Questions to Keep Your Child Safe

Would your kids know what to do in certain situations to keep them safe? Learn 5 important questions to keep your child safe. 

Questions to Keep Your Child Safe“Did someone open the door?” I asked my son.

I was getting something in my bedroom while he stayed in the kitchen. Except I had heard what I thought was the door opening and closing. I usually kept it locked, but maybe I had forgotten.

“No,” he replied.

Still, I imagined all sorts of random people opening the door with me not knowing. And it made me ask him…

“What would you do if someone you sort of knew, like… the delivery man. What if he asked you to come outside because he wanted to show you something?”

He thought about it for a second and said, “I would go.”

Just like that, I knew we had to talk.

5 “what would you do” questions to keep your child safe

It’s easy to assume our kids would know what to do in certain situations. But asking outright is the only effective way to gauge how their minds are thinking and what they assume. The hypothetical delivery man luring him outside was an eye-opener for me.

While I don’t expect anyone to do that to my kids, I also knew I needed to equip them with steps they can take to keep them safe.

In this hypothetical example, I explained that he shouldn’t leave the apartment or go with anyone who’s not a trusted adult. It doesn’t matter how nice a person is or if they’re asking for help. And most importantly, should anyone ask that of him, that he should tell me first.

That scenario made me think of other open-ended questions to ask my kids. Here are a few to consider with your own. After each question, review steps they should do to keep them safe:

1. “What would you do if you got lost at [the grocery]?”

We were at the grocery when I noticed my son wandering off. At one point, he was so distracted that he started following another man, thinking that the man was my husband.

Considering how easily he could’ve gotten lost, I asked him, “What he would do if you got lost at the grocery?”

The next time you go somewhere with your child, , especially with a large crowd of people, ask her this question and review different scenarios. I even recommend doing a quick run through when you arrive at a public place, from the grocery to a museum.

For instance, you can tell her that, should she get lost, she should:

  • Stay put as long as possible.
  • Ask for help from people who look like they work there. (It’s a good idea to describe what that means, like “People who have a name tag on their shirts.”)
  • Ask someone who looks like a mom with kids.
  • Never go with anyone, no matter what they say (“Your mom told me to take you to her”), or who they are. Even a mom can call for help without your child having to go anywhere with her.

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2. “What would you do if someone told you to keep a secret?”

Try to avoid using the word “secret.” Instead, differentiate between “secrets” and “surprises.” For instance, avoid saying, “Don’t tell daddy we’re having a birthday party for him—it’s a secret.” Say “it’s a surprise” instead.

You see, your child shouldn’t keep secrets from you. He can have surprises for you, like gifts he makes. But anyone who tells him to keep things a secret should be a surefire sign that he should tell you right away.

3. “What would you do if someone massaged or tickled you too long?”

Even at a young age, kids should know about private parts, and that no one’s allowed to touch them. Child predators usually don’t go straight for private parts. Instead, they groom their way to trust. Sometimes it all starts with something as innocent as a massage or a tickle-fest.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t massage your child or that he can’t get tickled or roughhouse with others. But do let him know that, should he get a “funny feeling,” he has every right to say “stop.”

Take it a step further and ask him any time you’re about to tickle or roughhouse if he allows it. If other adults start to tickle him, make sure it’s in an age-appropriate way, and interject and ask if that’s even okay with him.

The bottom line? This teaches him about consent and his right to stop anything he doesn’t like done with his body.

Read 3 reasons your child doesn’t have to hug everyone.

Reasons Your Child Doesn't Have to Hug Everyone

4. “What would you do in an earthquake [or another emergency]?”

Here in California, earthquake safety (and these days, fire safety) is high on the list. You can substitute other scenarios that need quick thinking on your child’s part.

I’ve asked my kids what they’d do in an earthquake, and thanks to talking about it, they know exactly what to do. We point out the safest places in certain room to duck under (the dining room table, or their beds). We also review what to do while it’s going on, and the next steps after it has finished.

I don’t mean to scare them. They’re hypothetical but possible scenarios I want to talk about so they feel prepared and empowered, not helpless. I know they’ll feel scared if a big one hits, but at least it won’t be the first time they’ve heard about it.

5. “What would you do if [someone familiar] asked you to follow him somewhere?”

This was the question I asked my son that day when I wondered what he’d do should someone familiar asked him to go with them.

Child predators aren’t usually creepy strangers in the dark—they’re the friendly guy who tries to earn your trust. Unfortunately, most are relatives or trusted community members. While I’m all about being friendly, kids need to know that there are boundaries with each relationship.

The best thing for your child to do is to go to you and stay put. If she can’t, she should yell as loud as she can. And no one should force her to do anything or go anywhere without you.

Read 7 smart ways to protect your child from predators.


The good news is that it’s unlikely a delivery man will lure my kids out of our home. They probably won’t get lost at the grocery, and the earthquakes we’ve had have all been mild.

Still. Tragedies happen, and talking to your child is a good idea, starting with these hypothetical questions. Ask her what she’d do if she got lost, or if someone asked her to keep a secret. Let her know she can stop unwanted tickling or roughhousing, and equip her with what to do in an emergency.

Lastly, remind her that she should never go anywhere—even with people familiar to her—unless they’re a trusted adult. And even then, she ought to tell you first.

It’s scary to think our kids would be in these situations, and sadly, nothing can guarantee against all harm. But you can be better prepared and have some peace of mind, all because you’ve planted the seeds of what to do should anything happen.

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