Parenting | Family

Why Teaching Your Kids About Stranger Danger Could Do More Harm Than Good

Slate

Growing up, our parents always told us, "Don't talk to strangers," but is that what we should be telling our kids? Experts are telling us, no.  

The "Stranger Danger," lesson is where children are taught to never approach people they don't know. This is done to protect children from predators or any bad intentions.

Experts are now saying that this lesson is extremely outdated, and sometimes does more harm than good.

“Whenever we’re teaching our kids, we want to help them to learn how to make the best decisions,” says parenting expert, Julie Freedman-Smith, of parenting power. “But rather than blanketing all strangers as dangerous – which is, of course, not the case – it’s really about helping kids get clear on using their own ‘how their tummy feels about someone’ (feeling) and helping them figure out who is a safe stranger.”

By portraying all strangers as dangerous, we might be teaching our children not to seek help from someone they don't know, if necessary and no one else is around.

There are ways to teach your kids about strangers without telling them all strangers are bad. Here's how:

Parents need to teach their children the difference between a trusted stranger they can go to in case they need help, and a potentially dangerous stranger they should avoid.

Freedman-Smith says, that this can be done by explaining to children that should they be in trouble, they should seek out someone in uniform. This could be a police officer or a store employee, for example.

We should also explain to our children that adults would never seek out the help of a child. If a stranger comes up to them asking for help with anything, for example finding their animal, they should not trust it and run to trusted adult.

Parents can also practice this with their children while out together. They can do this by pointing to a stranger and asking if they would be a trusted stranger, or not. They can then explain to their child if they were right or wrong, and why.

Simply telling your child to avoid strangers could be harmful if they were ever in a position where they needed help. Teaching your kids how to tell who they can trust, and who they can't will provide them with essential life skills, as well as the tools to seek help when needed.

What do you think about this new parenting tactic?