You are here: grownupsmag.comParentingStranger Danger? No More

Stranger Danger? No More

Stranger Danger No More
Prepare your kids for scary situations with this “safe stranger” advice.

Stranger Danger No MoreWe tell our children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” As parents, such advice makes us feel better, as if we’re keeping them safe from kidnapping or abduction, but how realistic is that piece of advice? If your children are walking home from school and get hurt or lost, are they supposed to sit mutely until you make your way to them?

Not so much.

While “Don’t talk to strangers” means well, it’s not a realistic message. Statistics show that children are more likely to be kidnapped or assaulted by someone they know than by a scary man who drives by in a white van. Granted it happens but not as often. Besides that, sometimes a parent is not available, and a child may need help from a stranger. It’s better to teach your children to be smart with strangers rather than forbidding them from ever talking to one.

Just what should children learn then?

  • Go to a public place. A lost, hurt, or scared child is more likely to find help in a densely populated area than in a less visible residential area.
  • Find a uniform. Good guys overwhelmingly wear uniforms. Police officers, firefighters, crossing guards, and even mail carriers are usually good choices.
  • Find a mother with children. She is generally a safe bet. She will be empathetic and know just what to say and do to help.
  • Find a well-maintained house with toys in the yard. Like the advice above, a lost child knocking on the door of a house that obviously has children is probably going to find someone who will help. Even if no one is home, if children seem to have reason to be there, a possible assault may be averted.
  • Stay with a group. There’s safety in numbers.
  • Stick to the routine. A detour or change in routine can make it hard to locate your children if something happens.
  • Avoid adults who seek them out. THIS is where the “don’t talk to strangers” is important. An adult who tries to get a child’s attention with a pet or candy may be up to no good.
  • Trust their instincts. Children need to know that if something feels wrong they need to get away from the situation and get help. They may be embarrassed or feel silly, but it’s important that they learn to trust their feelings.
  • Be aware of the surroundings. If a strange car is following them, teach them to memorize the color and license plate. Look out for people who are in the same place at the same time every day for no obvious reason.
  • Cause a scene. Children are often afraid to do this because they don’t want to get into trouble. In this case, they need to know that yelling and screaming in appropriate situations can get them the help and/or attention they need for the sake of safety.
  • Don’t keep secrets. Reinforce to your children that adults should not ask them to keep secrets from parents. Tell them that you need to know if this ever happens.

Approach the topic matter-of-factly, but reinforce the message occasionally to make sure the message sinks in. Reassure your child that most people are good and don’t hurt children and that the bad people are few and far between, but being prepared is always a good thing.

About the author

Grown Ups

Grown Ups

Grown Ups Magazine is a free resource for parents, teachers, extended family, or anyone who lives or works with kids. Enjoy digital issues of Grown Ups on your iPad, iPhone, or at

  • Megan Chamberlin

    These are all really great tips – as a parent of a three year old, I’m dreading most of these in depth conversations, but oh-so-important. #SITSblogging

  • Becca @ Bare Feet on the Dash

    I like the advice – “Find a mommy.” I really need to start talking to my kiddos about this.

  • Erica

    Great advice!

  • Shannon

    These are all great tips. I agree with the “trust your instincts” because most times they are right and better to be safe than sorry.

  • Katie Hale

    Great tips! We have recently had this kind of talk with our 7 year old since we have been traveling a lot. Being on the road means lots of crowds and public places he could easily get separated from us in. While we are always super careful, it is best to teach him just in case.

  • Sadie

    Great tips! We always do the buddy system. I’m a bit paranoid about stranger danger!

  • Jen Leeman

    I totally agree that “don’t talk to strangers” is not realistic, nor does it protect kids from real dangers. These are great tips and I’ll be sure to share this article with all my friends who have kids!

  • notageek4u

    I have a special needs sister, and I definitely try to instill this in her! Unfortunately, she has a big heart and loves everyone…hugs and all on first meeting.

  • Nichole

    Great advice! 🙂 I was always scared to talk to anyone that my parents didn’t talk to, and I was pretty much always with them. Then there were those who they did talk to that I didn’t feel comfy around!

  • Taylor Speikers

    Interesting, I never actually thought about this perspective on stranger danger. But it totally makes sense!

  • Some really good tips to remember and teach your children.

  • Tatanisha Worthey

    Great tips! I talk to my boys all the time about what to do if a stranger approaches you. Sometimes I fear that my kids are way too friendly.

Read More