Talking with Toddlers About Strangers
How to introduce the idea of stranger safety to young children
At a Halloween party, your toddler won’t leave your lap, even for a creepy cupcake.
Say: “It’s OK if you want to stay close. I know all these people can make us a little nervous.”
Consider: If your child latches on to you when he’s uneasy, that’s absolutely normal. You’re a safe, familiar home base in a room full of adult strangers. Letting your child hang off you a while shows him it’s OK for him to set his own limits with strangers and gauge for himself what makes him uncomfortable.
But … It’s also OK to skip Halloween parties altogether with little ones. The holiday’s over-the-top costumes and masks and frenetic, candy-fueled excitement can be overwhelming. If you must go door-to-door, try hitting only a handful of homes and only those your child has been to before. (Because really, your friends and family are the most eager to see your little pumpkin.) Or trick-or-treat in a mall or shopping center where you can condense the activity to a smaller scale.
Most information about strangers is geared toward the preschool-and-up set, but these are some great sites and books to check as your child ages:
Online resources for families:
- Do You Know How to Be Street Smart? by The Nemours Foundation
- Preventing Child Abductions by the AmberWatch Foundation
Books for kids and parents:
- The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers
- Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids (and Dragons)
- It’s My Body (Children’s Safety & Abuse Prevention)
This information is intended to be a conversation starting point and not to replace consultation with a mental health professional. Knowing your child the way you do, adjust or edit this script and these recommendations to meet his or her needs and comprehension. If you have concerns about your toddler, contact your pediatrician and request a referral for a mental health professional who specializes in work with young children. Click here to find help for working with your child through this and other touchy topics.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN