As a survivor of sexual abuse committed by people who were playing the role of my protectors and caregivers, I scoff at the idea of teaching my children the concept of stranger danger. This may seem counter-intuitive, allow me to explain.
Sometimes strangers are the ones that help when in an emergency. I don’t want my children to be afraid to ask for nor receive help from others they do not know, or consider strangers.
I’ve learned that those who are there to protect you can hurt you. While sometimes strangers can save you from danger.
Also, by teaching children that only strangers can bring harm to them, and not people that are their caregivers, family & church members, children can feel that they do not trust their own negative experiences. Or hunches. Children can then feel shame and guilt about inappropriate touching and behaviors directed at them. This may contribute to them not telling a trusted adult.
Last but not least, I want my children to learn to discern who may or may not hurt them. Whether they are strangers or not.
What have I done instead?
I have taught my children the anatomical names for each of their body parts, reading to them books that speak about genitalia with the same tone as hands and fingers and noses. This reduces body shame.
I have read to them books and talked with them about inappropriate touching. This so that they what is to be expected and what is not acceptable.
I do not force them to hug or kiss anyone, even their mom, if they say no. If playing games that involve tickling or horseplay when they say no or stop, that’s a hard stop for me. Teaching them it’s ok for them to have boundaries regarding their bodies.
Yes, I do tell them to not to take candy from nor to go with others alone, anywhere, without the knowledge of a trusted adult or parent. Yet what I avoid is using the term stranger danger.