We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t talk to strangers” as kids. Our parents have ingrained this into us as kids to keep us safe. “Don’t talk to strangers” is as ubiquitous as “look both ways”, and “wash your hands”. The problem with “don’t talk to strangers” is that it can be impossible to follow.
Kids today come into contact with adults they don’t know on a regular basis, and expecting them to be completely unresponsive to all strangers is unrealistic. Instead of “don’t talk to strangers”; parents need to train their kids in the art of talking to strangers. Teach your kids the appropriate ways to respond to adults they don’t know in certain situations.
As a parent, you have probably taught your child what to do if they find themselves lost in a grocery store. This is an example of when your child should know how to speak to some strangers in order to find you safely. Rather than breaking down into tears and wandering through the big, crowded store, your child should speak to a store employee. All grocery store workers are trained to deal appropriately with lost children. Obviously other strangers in the store should be avoided, but in this case, not all strangers are dangerous.
What should your child do if approached by a stranger asking for help? Generally, adults who actually need help seek the help of adults, not children. Your kids should know this is a potentially dangerous situation. If this situation arises, train your child to walk away and tell the closest trusted adult what the stranger said.
These are only a couple examples of new ways to think about the way children deal with strangers. Sometimes children can benefit from talking to strangers, other times there can be obvious warning signs.
Dorothy Hastings is the Director of First School, which are three preschool and child care centers located throughout Southern California. First School provides a hands-on approach to preschool education and Child Care Programs that emphasizes all around child development. In addition to their intuitive academic approach, First School also focuses on developing a child’s social skills and self-confidence, which is made possible in their intimate learning atmosphere.