Stranger Danger Vs. Being Friendly: Where’s the Line?


I have a very outgoing child.  To say he is friendly is an understatement.

When given the opportunity, he will chat with anyone, most anywhere.  He will be the child on the playground asking your child what her name is.  He is the one at open gym chasing your boy on the scooter.  The other day while at the market, he asked to go get a glass of water from the fountain, which is also a bottle filling station. I reluctantly let him go, only agreeing so because I knew I could see him from the checkout.  While there, he had no less than three conversations with different people about how the fountain worked, and where they should put their glass to receive a stream of water.

When at Hannaford’s on a Saturday night, he very happily told the adorable teenage cashier and his bagging assistant that we were buying a balloon for dad’s birthday, and we were going to go home and watch Frozen for movie night.  My bashful comment to the cutie at the check out, “I’m glad he’s so shy.”  “Yeah.” he chuckled back before telling my boy to enjoy his movie and happy birthday to dad.

I’m also glad that for the most part the people my son has encountered have been gracious to his conversation, engaging with his banter and smiling while he talks away.  But I can’t help but be nervous, as many parents are, about the day my child is going to talk to the wrong person.

stranger dangerYou see, he is only 4 years old, and sees the world through the eyes of someone who believes that we are all friends and neighbors, and we all share a common joy for rocks, space, Paw Patrol, and his little brother.  I don’t want to squash that joy, but I know at some point I need to talk to my son about the danger of approaching people he isn’t familiar with.  How to bring this up without taking some of the sparkle out of his eye when connecting with another person?

He has two role models when it comes to chatting people up.

I have always joked that his father can talk to anyone, anywhere.  Me?  I’m a bit more reserved but I am happy to speak with most people.  The difference is that we are adults, and we know not to get into the car of someone we don’t know.

Growing up, I was like my child.  I would chat with most people. I remember the day that it turned for me though – after a dinner out at Friendly’s with my family, I went outside while my father paid the bill. Enjoying the warm air, I saw a car parked by the sidewalk with a dog in the back.  Without thinking twice, I skipped down the ramp and over to the car to talk to the man inside and pet his dog.  I was leaning in the window of his car when my family came out of the restaurant.  Saying good bye to the man and his dog, I headed over to my parents to immediately be scolded.

“Don’t ever do that again!” I was told.  “You don’t know that man!  What if he pulled you into his car and drove away!”

I never thought of that.  But what eight year old would?  From that moment on though, I did think about it, and wasn’t so quick to talk to people I did not know.

I know the conversation with my son needs to happen, and soon.  He is at an age where if approached by the wrong person, he would have no reason to think something bad would happen.  I just hope that when we do speak with him, we are able to convey the important message that “stranger danger” employs, all while allowing his optimistic outlook of human kind to remain.



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