How To Talk to Your Kids About Strangers—Without Scaring Them


The world is a scary place for parents, after all, the news is often filled with stories of bad things happening to children, and it can be terrifying to think of ever allowing your child to leave your side. But independence is a part of growing up—even if it simply means letting your child wander a little farther across the playground.

With independence, education about strangers is essential. However, when it comes to keeping kids safe in public places, there’s a fine line between educating them and scaring them so much that they can’t have fun.

Here, The Institute for Families and Nanniesoffers some important rules of thumb that will keep young children safe, without making them unnecessarily fearful.

  1. Explain that parents, nannies or other adults in charge need to know where they are at all times. Whether they want to leave the swings to go to the bathroom, or go into the backyard after school, knowing their whereabouts is absolutely essential to help you keep them safe.
  2. No matter where you are, always have a plan about what to do if your child gets lost. Make sure they know how to identify the types of people who can help them, for example, policemen or security guards, or people working at the customer service desk if you’re in a place such as a mall or a grocery store.
  3. Your child should know that adults ask other adults (not children) for help. If a stranger stops to ask them for directions or some other type of help, make sure your child knows they are to go right away and ask a trusted adult what to do.
  4. Stress that if a stranger ever tries to hurt or touch them, they should yell “Stranger!” instead of “Help!” Also, if someone they don’t know touches them, it’s ok to fight back by biting and kicking.
  5. As you’re talking to your child, be sure to emphasize that most adults are nice, and are always working to help children and to keep them safe from harm. Explain that since you can’t tell from looking at a person what they’re like on the inside, it’s best to be cautious with everyone.
  6. Make sure they know that you’re teaching them these rules “just in case,” and that they shouldn’t be scared because most likely nothing like this will ever happen to them.

Some children know that when they have a “funny feeling” inside, something isn’t right. They should trust these funny feelings. That’s when going to a trusted adult is the right thing to do.

By incorporating topics like these into regular conversation with kids, they’ll feel like it’s a normal part of everyday life instead of something that they should fear.

Photo credit: Jessica Lucia/flickr

Childcare Challenge, Childhood Stress, Conversations with Kids, Tips for Parents tough conversations with kids