When is the right time to talk about “stranger danger” with your kids?
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It’s one of the most important topics we need to speak with our children about, but when exactly should we talk about stranger danger? And how should we go about it to ensure our children are kept safe and well?
We’ve all had those four words drilled into our heads: “Don’t talk to strangers”. And even though the occurrence of incidents with strangers is low, it’s high up on the list of things that keep us awake at night as parents.
It’s understandable that you’ll want to teach your child how to act around strangers as soon as possible. However, there’s a right and wrong time to do it, and it’s important to teach your child how to strike the right balance between being friendly with new people and their safety.
Keep reading to find out when is the right time to talk to your kids about stranger danger and how to do it.
How old should my kids be to learn about stranger danger?
We’ll start with the burning question – at what age should you start teaching your kids about stranger danger?
The answer is about four years old.
Children aged two or three won’t yet know what strangers are, or who could potentially do them harm. At this young age, introducing this concept to them is tough.
Instead, this young age is a good time to start teaching children about basic safety concepts. Things like staying close in crowds, holding your hand in public, and not running out of your sight will all set them up with good foundations to deal with the concept of stranger danger.
You should start teaching your kids about stranger danger when they’re four years old. At this age, children can tell who’s a stranger and who isn’t, and it’s a good time to start slowly introducing how to ensure their own safety around strangers while also being friendly with new people.
Introducing the concept of strangers
The first step towards talking about stranger danger is to introduce the concept of strangers. Start off with an easy definition – when you’re out with your child, point out strangers, such as people at the supermarket or somebody walking on the street.
At this early age, it’s important to teach them that it’s OK to talk with strangers if you’re present. This helps them first realize that just because someone is a stranger, it doesn’t make them bad.
- Discuss what your child should do in the event that they are separated from you, their caregiver, or teacher.
- Identify a safety net of trusted adults and places and do a few practices runs so that it becomes a real routine.
- Encourage them to trust their inner voice and to take action when they feel as though they’re in danger.
You may also seek professional help such as an experienced child psychologist to help you navigate the topic.
Teaching children to approach strangers for help
The next step is to go over some rules with your child if they ever need to deal with a stranger alone. A good place to start is setting up rules around what they should do if you’re ever separated while outside the home.
For example, let them know that if you get separated in the supermarket, they should make their way to where you pay for things and let someone working at the till know that they’re lost.
This is also a good time to start pointing out other adults they can trust. Teach them how to recognize someone working in a store by their uniform or position behind a till, police officers, and other people such as teachers or childcare workers. Other parents with children are also someone who could help.
Teaching children how to act if approached by a stranger
The final step is to teach them how to react if a stranger approaches them. If they’re under someone else’s care (like a teacher or childcare worker) when approached, the number one rule to repeat to your child is that they should go directly to the person who’s taking care of them.
Another important lesson is to teach them to refuse and immediately leave the area if a stranger ever offers them candy, a ride, or a toy.
A great way for children to learn all of this is with an online resource that turns it into a game. Helping them through the activities will make sure they know what they should and shouldn’t do.
Having the talk about stranger danger with our kids is an essential part of their development. Covering a difficult topic like this when they’re at the right age will help them prepare for any potential situations where they must deal with strangers alone – an essential part of growing up.