Teaching Children About Safety and “Stranger Danger”
My daughter’s preschool teacher recently mentioned they were learning about “stranger danger.”
The children were out on the playground when someone walking a dog caught their attention. They stayed in the playground, but gathered at the fence with excitement to see and greet the dog and owner. But it didn’t stop there. The questions ensued from those curious preschool minds, “What’s its name?” “What kind of dog is it?” Who could blame them? But when does a friendly greeting become too much when you are also trying to teach your child about strangers? The teachers distracted them back to something in the playground so the owner and dog could move on with the day, but I’ve encountered similar “stranger danger” scenarios many times since.
For example, once my daughter settles into preschool for the day, she becomes a social butterfly. We love this about her personality and encourage it, but it’s been tricky getting her to understand boundaries. For example, I’ve heard from teachers that she has A LOT of questions for other parents dropping off or picking up their children in the classroom. I’m so glad she’s comfortable in this environment, as she should be, but I also want her to be respectful of other people’s time, and I need her to be able to distinguish this safe environment from others that may not be safe.
We’ve discussed this with her teachers, and in the classroom the teachers talk with the preschoolers about those other situations outside of the classroom, and how they need to check with their adult first before talking to someone they don’t know. Easier said than done—at least for us! It’s certainly been a challenge enforcing this in our regular day-to-day.
Our daughter makes sure she’s holding us to the same standards and rules we’ve imposed on her—this always makes things interesting! One day I was grocery shopping with both my daughters and I was explaining to my preschooler why we couldn’t buy something she had her eye on. A woman shopping along stopped me to share kind words about how she remembers these crazy days and often misses them now that her daughters are grown and out of the house. After a brief exchange, I turned back to our grocery shopping only to have my daughter question if I knew that woman. I tried to explain the difference between her talking to strangers and adults talking to strangers, but I also think it went in one ear and out the other before she had set her eyes on something else she wanted off the shelves!
How and when do you teach your young children about stranger danger, and why it’s okay for adults to talk to strangers, but not okay for them to do so? Have you attempted any “stranger danger activities” as a family?
I’m a mom of two, employee of Bright Horizons and a foodie who loves to cook, travel, and laugh. In my free time, I like to pretend I know how to use my DSLR like a pro and do basically all things creative (major DIY-er here). I’m excited to share some of the ups-and-downs of parenthood as my husband, two daughters, two dogs and I explore life as a family!
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