How to Talk to Kids About Stranger Danger

“Don’t talk to strangers -” We were all told that growing up, and how many of us remember the stories of missing kids on Unsolved Mysteries and pictures on the backs of milk cartons? The threat of “stranger danger” seemed ever present, and, now that you’re a parent, there’s nothing more terrifying than the thought of someone harming your child.

Meanwhile, you may have seen the YouTube video in which a well-known vlogger wanted to show how easy it would be to use a puppy as a way to gain kids’ trust. After gaining parents’ permission, and with them looking on from a distance, he began talking to individual children and inviting them to walk away with them. Every single kid did so without hesitation.

You know you need to teach your child about safety, but you also don’t want to scare them or make them fearful. So, how do you find the right balance that empowers your child to protect themselves and make safe choices? Our preschool in Raleigh is sharing some tips on how to talk to kids about stranger danger.

Choosing Your Words with Care

Simply saying “don’t talk to strangers,” isn’t effective and can actually backfire. After all, someone with a puppy or ice cream may not seem like a stranger. On the other hand, if your child gets separated from you in a mall or other location, they may be so scared of talking to a stranger that they won’t get help.

So, Pattie Fitzgerald, founder of Safely Ever After, Inc. recommends teaching kids the idea of “Tricky People.” A tricky person is anyone who tries to get a child to break safety rules such as keeping a secret, go off alone, or cause harm. This is for two purposes:

  1. Anyone can be a tricky person, even a person your child knows (90 percent of harm that comes to a child is from someone they know, such as a relative or family friend).
  2. To a small child, “strangers” sounds scary, ugly, or mean, so when someone is nice or friendly, how can they be a stranger?
  3. A stranger can be a helper. For example, if your child is separated from you at Target, they can go to an employee for help.

Create Clear Safety Rules

Above, we mentioned that a tricky person is someone who asks a child to break their safety rules. Thus, it’s important to have clear, simple safety rules for your young child to follow. This can include:

  • “If someone approaches you, don’t talk to them without [Mom/Dad/Caregiver] with you.” – This shows your child that you’re keeping them safe.
  • “Never go off with an adult unless [Mom/Dad/Caregiver] says it’s okay and knows about it.” – This is a blanket rule for both strangers and people your child knows.
  • “If you get lost, look for an employee or another mom with kids for help.”

Practice Scenarios with Your Child About Stranger Danger

For preschoolers, you can actually teach safety rules in a fun, lighthearted way through role-playing. They can practice what to say in different situations, such as getting separated from you in a store or if a “tricky person” tries to talk to them at the playground. What would they do? Who would they ask for help?

Even though it’s important for your child to learn the safety rules, it’s okay to have fun during these moments. When your child is relaxed, they’re more likely to remember what to say and not panic in the event that something should happen.

We’re Dedicated to Children’s Safety at Our Preschool

At Primary Beginnings, we are dedicated to keeping the kids in our care safe as well as providing the ideal environment that supports children’s learning, growth, and development. If you’d like to learn more about Primary Beginnings or schedule a tour, we’re here to help! Contact our Spring Forest Rd school at 919-790-6888 or North Hills Drive at 919-785-0303, or fill out the form below today to get started!

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