The key to teaching children about strangers is to give them enough information to protect themselves, without scaring the day lights out of them. Many of the people your child has met so far in their life, began as strangers. Therefore, it is important to teach them that when they are with mom and dad, it’s okay to be polite to and greet people that they may not know.
By the time your child reaches Pre-K, around 4 years old, you should start working with them on memorizing their address and phone numbers. In addition, it is a good idea to practice with them on asking another adult, " Can you help me call my mommy?" This way, they are prepared shall an emergency arise.
Since separating a “good” stranger from a “bad” stranger is confusing for children, let them know that if they are lost or in danger, to find a mother with a child. This will allow them, in their mind, to distinguish between who is safe and who is not. Small children will be able to spot other small children much easier than choosing between adults and can ask them to “help me find my mom”. Practice asking your child which person they would choose to ask for help upon entering a crowded environment (examples: amusement park, fair, mall).
As soon as you arrive at a place where your child could get lost or separated from you, establish a meeting place. Make sure your child knows where it is and once they get there, what they should do (look for a mother with a child or a police officer).
Establish safety rules with your children. Instead of telling them “not to get into a car or accept anything from strangers”, try telling them that they must always ask a parent’s permission before going anywhere.
Observe how your child acts when meeting new people and when in a new environment. If they wander, you may need to set up more strict safety guidelines. If your child takes longer to warm up to people, make sure you let them know that it is okay. You want them to feel safe and to be able to express if someone makes them uncomfortable. If your child tells you that they are not fond of a certain person, ask them why. This will not only help them feel more comfortable, but there also may be a reason.
Share your guidelines with friends and family that may be responsible for your child at times. That way they can help maintain your child’s safety as you would.