May 30, 2012

Is She Too Young for Stranger Danger?

Every evening I take my daughter for a walk around the block before we have dinner. She loves to be outside, see the train on the tracks behind our house, point at all the “doggies” and say hello to everyone she passes. Since she began talking, I encouraged her to say “hi” to everyone that said hello to her because it gave her an opportunity to practice saying a word she knew.

 Now that she is almost 18 months, very mobile and even more friendly, I’m starting to become concerned that my encouragement to say “hi” to people will lead her to not be fearful of strangers. With the daily reports of missing children or violence against children, I have a heightened sense of awareness with stranger danger…a parent’s worst nightmare. The recent cases of Etan Patz and Leiby Kletzky are perfect examples, as recently covered by mom blog Strollerderby. And when I think of this topic, my inner helicopter mom comes out and tries to put a leash on my daughter, suffocating her with my hugs and need to hold her close. Then I wake up and try to act rational.

 Though she may be too young to have a conversation about being cautious with strangers, I’m struggling with letting her be happy and friendly to others in my presence and the consequences of that behavior down the road. When it does come time to talk to her, here are some good tips.

 And though I know stranger danger doesn’t end with our walk around the block, that one day I will be confronted with having to talk to her about online strangers, I can only handle so much fear and stress. I’m looking for thoughts or opinions on this – how did you talk to your children? When is the appropriate age to start the conversation? How did you stop yourself from locking your child in their room to keep them safe…forever?

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