The other day our neighbor stopped by to ask us if we could get his mail while he was away on travel in Japan. This was a neighbor my husband Mark and I knew, but not someone our 3 year old daughter knew. When our neighbor came to our door, our daughter walked right up to him, took his hand, and then started insisting that he come into the house to play with her. Our neighbor laughed and commented on how friendly our daughter was and although my husband and I tried to play it off we were actually very alarmed on how willing she was to talk to a stranger.
After our neighbor left, my husband expressed to me how uncomfortable he was with our little girl’s willingness to approach a stranger and I agreed with him completely on this. However, the issue that arose was how do we teach our daughter about strangers at this age without scaring her? She is only three years old and so of course she has a natural innocence that we don’t want to taint, but on the flip side to this, it is a scary world we live in and we want her to be aware of “stranger danger.”
Trust me when I say that I am a VERY over-protective mama and I watch my child like a hawk, and I wouldn’t even think twice about killing someone who wanted to endanger her life in any way. This may sound extreme, but lets be real with one another, in nature it’s a mother’s instinct to protect her young and so I don’t think this is extreme at all, I think it’s natural.
My husband and I know that it is also our responsibility to teach our child how to protect herself too. So my question to all of you is when is the right time to introduce the concept that there are dangerous people in the world to a child? Is three years old too young? Or is there a developmentally appropriate way to begin teaching her about this now? When is the right time to introduce stranger danger to our kids? And how?
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