Child Development

Stranger Danger

How To Warn Your Preschooler About Strangers

Though the possibility of an abduction is something that all parents wish they would never have to worry about, it’s an all too sad-fact of life that they do exist. These days, it’s become more apparent that parents can do everything they can to limit the chances of abduction and still run into issues. Luckily, with increased technology, announcements signaling detailed information of abducted children can go out as quickly as ten or so minutes after it happens. Not so luckily, is that the abductions happened in the first place.

“Stranger danger” has long been the mantra for parents teaching their children how to handle strangers, but in recent years, has become not as definite as was once promised. Before, kids were taught to simply never speak to a stranger, no matter the circumstances. Yet, research finds that this can do more harm to a possibly abducted child than good. Children taught not to seek the help of a stranger, while being abducted by another, are unlikely to signify that anything is wrong or that help is needed. More than 700 children are abducted daily, meaning that something needs to change in the way that we teach them to interact with their surroundings. When Joey Salads’ successful social experiment video went viral, it detailed his experience with speaking as a stranger to kids, and shows just how easily abduction can actually be. So what do we, as parents, do? Take a look at these tips for how to protect your child from harm’s way.

Actions Not Appearances

Though kids are more likely to steer clear of people who look menacing and dangerous, they’re at risk for those who look entirely normal. Instead of teaching your child to be mindful of a person’s appearance, teach them to pay attention to the actions instead. Particularly because child abductors will look much like normal people, it’s important that your child be aware of what they do versus who they are. Explain to your child that they are to never go with any stranger who asks them to come away with them for any reason. Let them know that many dangerous people might offer things like toys, candy, ostranger dangerr even puppies if they only come to the car with them, which is a red flag for danger. Instruct your child to firmly yell “no” as loud as possible and to turn and leave the area immediately. Finally, tell your child to alert the nearest trusted adult, such as a family member, friend, or teacher, of the incident as soon as possible.

Teaching your child to be aware of what a stranger may ask them to do helps them understand that the actions are more important than the looks. Helping them to recognize that anything a stranger says to get them away from their mommy or daddy will help them more often than just telling them to not talk to strangers. By instructing your child to not talk to strangers, you are limiting their understanding that a stranger can seem nice, leaving your child open to vulnerability.


Your preschooler may be young, but that doesn’t mean they don’t already have instincts built into them. Think of all of the things you’re afraid of that no one had to teach you. Spiders, for example, are a fear that is permanently engrained into many peoples’ minds. Likewise, help your child understand the feeling in their stomach when they are uncomfortable. If someone makes them stranger dangernervous, panicky, or scared, it’s okay for them to walk away and seek shelter immediately. Explain that the feeling is there for a reason—to keep them safe. Teaching your child to recognize important aspects of their own nature can help protect them from harm, including the harm caused by strangers.

Have A Safe Word

Sit your children down before you leave each day, and discuss a safe word to use between the two of you. Choose something obscure enough to not easily be guessed, but easy enough that your child can remember it. Tell them to always ask any strangers who come up to them what the safe word is before going anywhere with them. If they know the safe word, then your child can be certain that it is a family member or family friend and is a safe adult for them to be around. If the safe word that the adult gives is incorrect or they insist on not saying, then instruct your child to leave the area immediately and find an adult they trust. This is especially important for days at preschool as many potential abductors use the “I’m picking you up from school excuse”. Though  preschools require the parent to let the teacher know beforehand who will be picking the child up, it’s an invaluable lesson to learn. San Diego preschools, in particular, are large, making it increasingly important for your toddler to understand the safe word rule.

Know Who To Go To

lost stickers

From Etsy Shop LoveandLion

As mentioned above, kids need a safe harbor to reach out to, especially for when they wander away. Explain that people in uniform, such as policemen, security guards, or workers at an amusement park, are people who can be trusted to get them back to their parents if they are lost. If there are no uniformed persons around, instruct them to find a family with kids, grandparents, or women to help. Likewise, consider purchasing phone number tattoos for your family excursions. Not only do they provide the child’s information if they become lost, but they don’t wash off like pen or marker as well.

Always remind your child to keep an eye out for dangerous situations and people. Make certain that they understand that strangers who act strangely should be treated as unsafe and not trusted. Finally, make sure your child understands who to go to if they need an adult to help them.

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