Many schools are out for the summer now, so at 2pm, the playgrounds are no longer run by the under 5 crowd during the day. The "big kids" like to hang out on the playground, chatting with friends, but also blocking slides and climbing equipment. For the most part, it's fine. If the little ones want to use the slide, they'll move.
While at the park yesterday afternoon, the girls and their friend were playing on a playground structure that had a small tunnel. My friend and I were sitting close by on a bench. We could clearly see the playground structure, but couldn't see the corner with the tunnel very well. Several minutes later, we got up. I went and stood near T & Q. Teagan then tells me that the big kids had been blocking the tunnel. She asked them to move so she could crawl through with Quinn and their friend. The big girl told her that she would let them through if Teagan gave her a hug. Alarm bells went off in my head, but I didn't let T see that. I calmly asked her a few more questions. Teagan did hug the girl, who then let the three of them pass.
I know that the young girl was likely harmless and simply wanted a hug from a cute little kid, but the fact that Teagan obliged so quickly concerned me. I get it though. She doesn't see danger (in the form of strangers) yet. Big kids are cool to a 4-year old and she just wanted to crawl through a tunnel.
While I've talked to them for over a year now about what to do if they get lost, we hadn't had stranger conversations yet. I tried to bring it up last night, but they had no interest in listening since we were getting ready to read books.
At breakfast this morning, I brought it up again. I asked them if they knew who strangers are. They didn't. We talked about who would be a stranger and who wouldn't be. We then talked about something a stranger might ask them to do or offer to them and what they should do. Teagan asked what to do if a stranger follows them. Awesome question, T. I told her to scream as loud as she could and run towards a group of people. She thought that was great. This sparked a conversation about screaming inside the house (a new thing that they've started!) and screaming at other times.
This is a tricky conversation to have. Like everything with young children, it needs to be talked about simply. I also didn't want to scare them. I want them to develop reasonable street smarts without being afraid of their own shadows. I think that I definitely got through to them this morning, but it is something that we need to talk about regularly for a while until it sinks in.
How do you talk to your kids about strangers?