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Question of the Day: Explaining the Dangers of Strangers

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Question of the Day is where Breezy Mama‘s Go-To parenting whiz, Dr. Fran Walfish, who is an Expert in Parents Magazine’s “Ask Our Experts” column, is here to answer your daily parenting questions. Make sure to send us what’s on your mind to alex@breezymama.com and Dr. Walfish will tackle it in a future Breezy post. Now on to today’s question. . .

How do I explain to my child the dangers of strangers without giving them nightmares?

Before talking to your children, you need a good “self thermometer” to make sure that you don’t have signs of fear or anxiety in your voice. If you do, you may non-verbally communicate your fear in the message that you’re telling them. Once you’ve got a level head, you can tell them that we live in a world where most people are good people. But, walking amongst us are a few bad ones. We can’t tell by looking at them if they’re good or bad, so we have to be extra careful by not talking to people we don’t know. These are what we call strangers.

This conversation starter is your springboard for the foundation of the talk. From here, you let them know that because we don’t know if everyone is good, we have to be extra careful with strangers. This means:

  • We don’t open doors to strangers
  • If someone wants you to look for a lost pet, you don’t help them because they may be trying to trick you
  • Don’t take candy from people you don’t know

Then, turn it onto your child and have them tell you a scenario where a stranger may try to trick them.

Keep it short and simple—this is especially true for the younger children.

When you’re out and about, and you see a situation that lends itself to a teachable moment, by all means, point it out with questions like, “Do you think that’s a safe thing to do?” or “What else could that boy do to protect himself?”

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Frances Walfish, Psy.D. is the foremost Beverly Hills child and family psychotherapist. Her caring approach, exuberant style, humor, and astute insights have earned her a sterling reputation among colleagues and national media alike. A frequent guest on top-­tier TV programs, including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and KABC-­TV in Los Angeles, The Doctors, CBS and often appearing in major publications such as Parents Magazine, Family Circle and Woman’s Day, Dr. Fran continues to lead the field with her expert insights and innovative strategies for parents, children and couples.

Her current book, The Self-­Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child from Palgrave Macmillan’s/St. Martin’s Press, December 7, 2010, is receiving acclaimed reviews. Dr. Fran is also an expert panelist on WE tv’s new television series, “Sex Box”, premiering in early 2015.  More information on Dr. Fran can be found online at DrFranWalfish.com.

To order Dr. Walfish’s book ($11.56 on Amazon), click here.

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