Do you tell your children “Don’t Talk to Strangers?” – Watch your language

The Don’t Talk to Strangers campaign taught generations of children to fear strangers – and don’t get me wrong there are bad strangers out there – but not all strangers are bad. The fact is you can’t tell what is in someone’s heart by the way they look on the outside.  Abductions from strangers is what fears most parents, however, almost 90% of the time the child knows their abductor. This is part of the reason why we need to rethink teaching our children “Don’t talk to strangers.”


“Don’t talk to Strangers” is not a skill. It tells children what NOT to do. Children need to also be taught “what TO do”. So imagine this: your child innocently playing in the park and is approached by a stranger. The stranger asks them a non-threatening question (as most strangers, even the bad ones, don’t appear scary), what would your child do? What have you taught your child to do? You may have told them “don’t talk to strangers.” And you probably also told them to listen to their elders and not to be rude. Most children will be confused. They will not necessarily feel threatened by this “stranger” as children’s instincts are not fully developed until adulthood. So technically they might be left standing there unsure of themselves with no clear plan of action. So here is what KidSafe wants you to do:  First, loose the language “Don’t talk to Strangers.”

  • It is not a skill

  • We don’t model “don’t talk to strangers” as we as adults need to talk to strangers every day to function in this world

  • Remember – 90% of the time a child is harmed by someone they know…NOT a stranger

Our advice…..change your language –Teach children what they should do. Teach safety skills by playing the “What If” game. Say to your child: “What if you are approached by a stranger, especially if being asked to be of help or being offered a treat, help me find my lost puppy, help me find my keys, let me buy you an ice cream, etc. what would you do?” Most importantly, listen to your child’s answer. I am sure they will give you the wrong one if you have not had a conversation about this. You should expect the wrong answer and not overreact. Now is your time to teach them how to make the safest and smartest choice.


 Most children will want to help find the puppy, will want ice cream and will want to find the hard to reach keys. Children love to be helpful. We recommend you teach your children that adults they do not know should NOT be asking a child for help. They should be asking another adult. It is in situations like this that the children have the right and your parental permission to be rude, and remove themselves from the situation. No need for small talk, they can just walk, or run away, in the direction of other adults – preferably to their trusted adult (which for safety reasons should be in the vicinity.) Teach them that once they get to a trusted adult they should report what occurred. Simply state the facts – (parents don’t get overly emotional). Once your child reports to you – praise them for making the safest and smartest choice. Listen to your gut – if you feel that an unsafe person has just approached your child (also if the occurrence happens with someone in a car) report it to the police.


Often as parents we are teaching from a place of fear. Don’t talk to Strangers, Don’t do drugs, Don’t answer the door when home alone. When teaching from a place of fear or negativity keep in mind that you are often not teaching your children a skill. Children need to be told what NOT to do – but more importantly they need be told what TO do. Watch your language. Teaching from a positive proactive approach of what TO do provides for your child, teen and young adult skills for a life time. Kids who have been raised with personal safety skills have an increased level of confidence, responsibility, and often develop a keener sense of intuition at a younger age. The goal at KidSafe is to help you raise the safest and smartest children!


"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be included in the KidSafe program. I highly recommend this program to other schools. We hope that we will be given the same opportunity for our Kindergarten and 2nd grade students to be a part of this wonderful program during the 2016-2017 school year."

Mrs. Keelyn Meselsohn 2nd Grade Teacher/Team Leader Tradewinds Elementary School

"The Safe and Smart Series Book My Body Is Special and Belongs To Me is kept in my middle school clinic and has been a tool that has opened many conversations for me between students that have experienced a difficult situation and were unable to talk about it. Through the illustrations and nonjudgmental verbiage the author has allowed kids permission to share their feelings about invasion of their personal space. Thank you so much."

Nurse Connie, PBC School Nurse 6.8.2016

"I'm so grateful that KidSafe has partnered with my daughter's school.  I learned so much in the parent training--how to recognize potential sexual predator behavior; how to quiz my child about what they would do in different scenarios; and how to explain safe and unsafe touch.  In addition, knowing that my daughter is receiving weekly trainings on these topics gives me great peace of mind.  I have confidence that I can reinforce what she is learning in school in order to prevent her from ever being a victim of such a heinous crime.  Thank you KidSafe for your dedication to protecting our communities' most vulnerable citizens."

Christina Kranick

“It was a normal Saturday and I was at the rink with my 7 and 8 year old. My son asked me if he could use the Men’s Restroom by himself.  Without hesitation, my daughter said,  Absolutely not! I was in KidSafe today and you cannot go to the restroom alone.  It is very important that Mommy is with you.. with us.   I was so proud of my little girl!  We are so blessed to have Debbie Miller at our school teaching our children the importance of safety. Many thanks to you all!  Your program and instruction is absolutely amazing.  Keep up the great work!"  

Tara Henley Admissions Assistant, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and School, Ft. Lauderdale

I am a parent of two Pine Crest children and I attended your program on Monday night. I just wanted to thank you so very much for the very informative seminar. As hard as it was to hear all of those things, it was very needed. We were thrilled that you were able to come and share that very important information with us and our children. So again...thank you.

Elisa Aronberg

Today’s training was awesome! It was very informative. Sally was a very good resource, she motivated us a lot! We want to pass on this information to parents, teachers and students! Thank you for offering workshops like this. These are tools we use to continue serving our children and families.

Participant from Children’s Services Council of Broward Seminar

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