When our children are young we tell them to steer away from strangers and not to talk to/go with anyone that approaches them that they’ve never met before. That’s fine. That’s the way it should be. But what about if a parent has met that person once before or spoken to them on the phone, does that make them a stranger too?
I don’t think it does because if a parent trusts that adult then the child should trust them too. In simplistic terms, there are trusted/good strangers and potentially unsafe/bad strangers. Children should be aware of “stranger danger”, but not at the expense of trusting adults in day-to-day social interactions.
Examples of Trusted Strangers
For example, if a child came to see me I would not want the child to think I was a stranger. I don’t want them to be worried about speaking to me or being left alone in a room with me. That’s just how coaching works and a lot of other practitioners work in the same way. The child needs to know that it is okay to speak openly to the coach as they are working with their parents to help the family. Parents should speak to the child before the coaching session so that they understand this.
It’s the same for when children go to someone else’s house, be it a playdate or attending a party without their parents. They may have never met the other mum or dad but they are not a stranger either. Trust from their own parent (who has a gut feeling about people) and the childs gut feeling should be enough. Of course, if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or does something inappropriate they should tell someone, but if all is well then there is no reason to distrust others.
There are safe strangers and there are unsafe strangers. Please can parents be more careful what we say about strangers as not everyone is a stranger in this sense. Teach your children about stranger danger but don’t make them scared to interact with unknown adults when the situation arises.