Teaching my child about stranger danger
With the summer upon us, we cast our child’s tablets and devices to one side and throw them outside to embrace nature, to play and have fun while the weather is a little better. For parents, its a time when our concerns about stranger danger reach their peak!
My four year old daughter usually plays in our back garden which is fenced and locked and fully enclosed. But after seeing children out playing in their front gardens, which were soaked in sunshine and filled with laughter, she begged me to let her play in ours too. After much deliberation, I agreed to let her play there in her little bubble car… she was thrilled.
My baby needed to stay inside as the sun was too strong for her newbie skin. She was getting very warm and agitated so I opened the blinds and could see my older daughter in our garden. I was filled with panic even though she was completely safe.
When I was young we spent as much time playing on the street and surrounding woodland as we did in our homes, completely unsupervised of course! We played from morning to dusk and we didn’t come home until the street lights came, which in the Summer in Ireland is very late indeed, we ran through streams, climbed trees, collected frog spawn, hid in strangers’ gardens, made daisy chains, and played with everyone. We looked after the little kids in the street… we were a community. Does that exist anymore?
Things have changed a lot since I was a child: now we wrap our children up in cotton wool. I supervise everything my girls do, I am probably guilty of not letting them explore and be independent outside of our home, where I know they are safe. Keeping them inside our little bubble will not help them to develop and understand the world. As a parent it is my job to equip my kids with everything they need to survive without me.
So I decided to let my four year old play in our front garden. I created the impression that she was alone but she was still being supervised unbeknownst to her. I was constantly watching her through the window of our front room, I also had our front door open. My daughter was so happy she played for two hours walking her dolly pram up and down the garden and going on shopping trips in her little bubble car. She waved at our neighbours walking past and they waved back.
Then a car pulled up at my neighbours house and all of a sudden fear washed over me, this person was no real threat…they were visiting my neighbour. But then it hit me, my child has absolutely no idea about stranger danger.
There might be a time when she finds herself alone and she has no idea what she should do if someone approaches her. But I had no idea how to explain stranger danger to my child without making her terrified of anyone that speaks to her.
Later that evening I asked my little girl what she would do if someone approached her that she didn’t know and asked her to go with them. Her reply sent shivers through me, she said waving her hand “Hi my name is Sarah and I am four”.
Internally I cried out ‘no no no!’.
I explained to her that sometimes there are unkind people who want to take children away from their mummies and daddies. This statement initiated a million questions. I explained that if someone she didn’t know asked her to go with them to get sweets, ice cream, toys etc she was to run away as fast as she can and scream as loud as she can. I compared this to when the witch approaches Luke in the movie Witches, which she is obsessed with and she understood. We even practised this, but I was careful not to make it into a game.
Hopefully my baby doesn’t unleash her stranger danger routine on an innocent neighbour walking past our front garden who is just saying ‘hi’ and that she doesn’t start shouting like a witch and pointing her finger! I also want to teach my daughter that it is ok to talk to strangers to be kind and to be friendly because sometimes saying the words ‘Hi how are you’ to a stranger is the only contact they have had that day. Sometimes the smile or wave from a little child brings a little light to that person even for a few minutes.
This parenting stuff is a rollercoaster how do you teach your child to scream stranger danger but also not be afraid of strangers? Here at BubbleBum Travel Booster Seats a lot of my colleagues are parents and they are on the same boat as me. We want to let our kids explore and enjoy the outdoors in the summer months but are also fearful of the dangers which come with this.
For now I will continue to remind my daughter about stranger danger, but also lead by example and be friendly and kind to strangers.