HERE are some ideas to help small children feel more capable in potentially threatening situations. Derived from training programs offered by Camp Fire Boys and Girls of Kansas City, Mo., the ideas were taught to more than 75,000 children last year.
``Kids know the scary things are out there,'' says Connie Coulter, director of community education for Camp Fire Boys and Girls in Boston, ``and they want to know there are things they can do to help themselves.''
* Have your child practice using the phone, to become familiar with dialing and answering. Trace their hand on a piece of paper and print the phone numbers of trusted people to call - relatives, neighbors - in the fingers of the hand. Put the hand near the phone (along with emergency numbers) and tell the child this is a ``helping hand'' if they are alone and need to call someone.
* Decide on a ``magic word'' that only you and your child know. If someday you can't pick the child up from school, or play, and someone else says they are there to do it, the person has to know the ``magic word'' or the child won't follow.
* If the doorbell rings, and the child is home alone, he or she shouldn't answer the door. If the person at the door persists, the child should call a number on the ``helping hand'' and ask for help.
* Walk with your child through the neighborhood, or along the route to school, and point out the stores or neighbors to go to if help is needed, or if a stranger bothers them.
* Teach your child never to give information over the phone to strangers. If the voice asks for the mother or father and the child is home alone, the child should say, ``My Mom is busy now. She'll call you back.'' Children need to know when it is all right not to be polite and refuse to do what an adult asks.