Talking to Strangers
May 13, 2015  |  Written by Carlota Nelson

“Don´t speak with strangers” is probably the one thing that parents all over the world repeat to their children over and over again. But recent studies reveal that if we want to protect our children, we need to teach them how to talk to strangers.  Keep reading to discover how you can teach them to react, use their common sense and say NO the next time they are in this type of situation.

Ernie Allen, former head of the National Centre of Missing and Exploited Children in the United States, has been trying to debunk the myth of stranger danger for years. Because, according to police reports and other institutions, the majority of child abuse cases comes from people who they are actually familiar with.

Last year, police forces in England and Wales recorded 569 offences of child abduction. Please make sure you visit this site for the latest information and advice on child abduction and kidnapping.

Also, the 116000 number is the European helpline to report missing children. The hotline offers guidance and support to parents or relatives of a missing child and can back the efforts of the authorities during investigations.

Like the saying goes: “Better safe than sorry”. So let´s begin with the do´s and don´ts with the team of experts at BabyCenter, who offer great advice:

Basic Security:  Once they turn 2, you can begin to speak to them about common household accidents and the importance of not straying away from the group, the class or the family when outdoors, at the store or anywhere that is new or unfamiliar.

The Stranger Concept: Once they are 4, we can begin to introduce the stranger concept. We can ask them what they think  a stranger is. The correct answer in case they don´t know is: anyone that they do not know. But remember, a stranger doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is good or bad. They are simply strangers.

Good Strangers:  Parents, grandparents, teachers are people inside the circle of trust and they should be the first to be informed if anything happens. But there is also a group of people, known as good strangers that children need to be aware of and learn to identify. This group includes policemen, security guards, store employees, etc. They are strangers but if children learn who they are,  they can become their best allies.

If they get separated or lost: If it´s inside a shopping mall or supermarket show your children how to spot the security guards or employees. The best thing to do is have them go to the cash register and ask for help.


Role Playing: We know children learn by playing and that one of the best ways to understand the world they live in  is by role-playing. So why not use this game to practice how to react with strangers?

For example, imagine the following scenario. Your child is alone or with friends at the park and someone he doesn’t know walks up to him. Teach your child – physically and verbally – how to stop doing whatever he is doing, maintain his distance and look for help either within his group of friends or parents with children.

When and how to speak with strangers: as long as they are with you, it´s all right for your children to say hello, goodbye, thank you or please. Remember we are the mirrors in which they look and children imitate our behaviour.

If they are alone and a stranger asks for directions, your children can point in the right direction always maintaining their distance or they can simply say they don´t no and walk away.

If a stranger insists on talking them home or to school, and even offers them sweets or toys, your children should know how to firmly say NO and immediately walk away and ask for help. This can also be taught using role-play scenarios.

Instinct, another great ally: In a recent study published by Psychological Science, researchers discovered that children, even at a very young age (some just a year old) could identify, instinctively who was trustworthy and not. So, if your children find themselves in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should trust their intuition and walk away, even if they don´t really know why.

Good Communication: Make sure to establish a good, healthy communication with your children and motivate them to share their fears, situations when they´ve felt insecure or in danger and even things they cannot understand. And remember, when they talk, we must listen.

How do you teach your children to react in front of strangers? We encourage you to share your experience with our readers.

Photo Credits: US Department of Agriculture

Photo Credits: WoodleyWonderworks

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