Stranger Danger? The Surprising Way We Are Teaching Our Daughter.

Today, I want to talk about something really important, especially if you have kiddos, and that’s “stranger danger.” I’m going to share about what we’re doing with our 5-1/2 year-old and eventually our little about the potential risks of strangers. It  actually might not be exactly what you’re expecting.

My Five-Year Old Will Talk to Anybody!

My kid will talk to anybody and it’s been like that pretty much as long as she’s been talking, maybe even before that. She will talk to just about anybody. Doesn’t matter who it is. Doesn’t matter if they’re old, young, have all their teeth or no teeth. 🙂 She’ll talk to them.

And She Invited A Young Teenager at Costco on a Play Date……

I have a story I want to share with you about my very chatty little girl, which I love about her. We were at Costco in line to pick up a hot dog as her reward for doing an amazing job helping me with shopping. In front of us, in line was a preteen, maybe a teenage boy, probably 12 or 13 years old, about two times as tall as my young daughter.

One thing we have stressed since she was very young is that she can talk to strangers as long as she’s with either me, her dad or an adult, like her grandparents. So, she strikes up a conversation, naturally, with this preteen and begins telling him everything. “I have a coin. Have you seen my penny? Did you know I have a loose tooth? I lost a tooth one time when Daddy did the towel trick. It came out and we thought it was a piece of corn.”

This kid looks at me and smiles. I just smiled and nodded and went back to tending to my youngest who was, at that point, pretty much trying to scale the cart. My daughter kept talk, talk, talking with, “I’m going to get a hot dog. What are you going to get?” He replies, “I’m going to get a piece of pizza.” “This is my lunch.” And he says, “Oh, yeah. mine too.”

I’m distracted because of my little but out of the corner of my ear, I hear her say, “Do you want to come over for a play date and have lunch?” And I’m like… I just look at him and he looks at me as his cheeks turn a little red. And he’s says, “Well, I actually have something I have to do this afternoon. But thanks for the invite.” She’s replies, “Okay. Maybe tomorrow.” Then, at some point in time after that, she tells him her name and asks, “What’s your name?” He answers, “My name’s Matt.” As we’re leaving Costco, she’s walking along with me, very excited, literally skipping. “Well, Mommy, he’s not a stranger anymore. His name’s Matt. I asked him his name and his name’s Matt. So he’s not a stranger, right?”

…….So, We Have Been Teaching Her About Strangers

As I mentioned just a few minutes ago, we had to teach our daughter the definition of a stranger because to her everybody is a friend. Everybody is a person who’s great and she wants to talk to them. So we’ve had to start early explaining about strangers. A stranger is someone that you don’t know.

The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangersbook

This book has been around for awhile. I loved the series when I was a kid and it’s still fun.

What we decided what works well for us is to tell her that when she’s alone, we don’t want her to talk to strangers. At her age she’s rarely alone but unless she’s with us or with a trusted family member, we don’t want her to talk to random people. If she is with us she can talk to strangers, like the guy at Costco. It’s okay because I was standing right there. I’ll settle for that but do I love it? No. I would rather quite and keep moving. However, that’s part of who she is and I think it’s a lovely part of her personality. Honestly, it’s beautiful that she likes to talk to people and that she’s not afraid to talk to anybody. Just about everyone responds with a smile. I that’s great. So, I just need to mold that into what is appropriate.

Here’s A Great Book Resource About Strangers

I want to share with you about a book that my mom and dad read to me as a young child. I still remember this book – it has stayed with me from early childhood, and I’m looking at it right now. I would remember it even if I hadn’t just looked at the book…..it’s that good.

It has great illustration about strangers and talks about why it’s important to be careful around strangers. The book is titled, The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers. (affiliate link) I think the copyright date is 1985. My parents bought this book to read to me when I was about the age that my daughter is now. I’m surprised there are no drawings all over it.

It’s about a conversation between Mama Bear and Sister Bear about strangers and why we have to be careful. She says that not all strangers are bad, but unfortunately, there’s always going to be a couple of bad apples in every barrel. The reason it’s important to not talk to strangers is because you don’t know who is going to be good and who is going to be bad.

Wormy apples

A few strangers look fine on the outside but are all wormy and gross on the inside. (Screen grab from Berenstain Bears video “Learn About Strangers”

So, Sister says, “Look, I found a funny one.” It’s really good illustration where Mama says, “Yeah, it is funny on the outside. The stranger looks perfect like a beautiful apple that is polished and pretty on the outside but when you open it, the apple inside is all wormy and gross. (See Berenstain Bears video screen grab at right) Ted Bundy, anyone? This is another really good thing to explain to your kid. You just never really know. Even if someone looks just fine on the outside, they could be an evil predator. The whole point of this book, is why it’s best to not talk to strangers.

What We Are Teaching Here if She DOES Need to Talk With a Stranger

Another important thing we are teaching our daughter is what to do if she does need to speak to a stranger and we are not there. Who does she talk to? Say we’re in the grocery store and we get separated, I don’t want her to be terrified to ask for help. I don’t want her to be in a ball crying because she doesn’t know what to do and some creeper picks up on my vulnerable child. If she gets lost and needs help, we have taught her how to pick a safe stranger.

At the grocery store you might think to go find a store employee but I’m not sure a 5 year old would know how to identify an employee. I know it wouldn’t be easy for my 5 year old kiddo. It’s not like all stores employees are going to be wearing hot pink vests saying, “Hi, I work here,” or something easy that she could pick up on. She might not really understand a name tag.

Obviously, we have told her that it’s always okay to talk to is a policeman or a fireman. That sounds great but the chances of there being a policeman or a fireman right there when your kid needs help is probably slim to none. It’s good to teach them that though just in case, but chances are it’s probably not going to happen.

Find a Mom With Kids

What we have done and I love this is, we’ve told her to find a mom with children. I read about that a few years back and I think it’s a great plan. I can almost guarantee you that if your child gets separated out and she can’t find you, she’s going to panic. But if she can find a mom with her children and tells her, “I can’t find my mommy. I’m scared. Will you help me?” That mom is going to grab your baby up and go Mama Bear until she helps your kid find you. So we’ve taught her find a mommy with kids.

At the store we’ve role played and done. I will say, “If you were lost, who do you look for?” She always says, “Oh, a mommy with kids.” And I reply, “Okay. When you see one, show me.” And she’ll point and say, “Mom, there’s a mommy with kids.” “Perfect. If you can’t find me, you go to her and ask for help” and she’s pretty excited because she knows she would get help from a safe stranger.”

We Are Teaching Our Kids Our Names, Phone Numbers and Home Address

Lastly, we are teaching our oldest daughter our full names, phone number, and her home address. We had to explain that she didn’t need to tell everybody because she was doing that for a little while. That’s okay. Most people just kind of chuckled because they understood.

We’ll quiz her, “Honey, what’s my phone number? What’s our address? What would you say if you get lost and you need to tell someone your address?” She’s got it down pretty good and I’m fairly certain some of the employees at our local grocery store know my address, because she can be a bit loud sometimes. That’s okay. I would rather her know it than not.

Hoping you find this helpful…..and I hope your little will never need to “find a police officer” or “find a mom with kids” to help in a crisis.

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