I have a 5 year old that is very very very sociable. I am being a generous here. I have tried to explain to him in simple terms that not everyone is good and that he can't go up to everyone he sees and start a conversation like he is a little adult, but it confuses him. He think that everyone is good and no one is bad or can do bad things. So when I explain to him about strangers, he usually doesn't listen to me, but if he does, he does a complete 360 and now everyone is a stranger and I don't want him to feel that he either has to say talk to trust/talk to everyone or trust in no one. How can I better explain to him about strangers and how to be more careful. As a parent, I have my eagle eyes on him all the time because I know how he is, but I also want him to be aware of these things even if it is start.
The thing to do is not teach him to be wary of people, but of behaviors. Most of the bad things that happen to children are perpetrated by people they know. Children and adults both benefit from interactions with each other. It's a shame that this rich source of learning is so often stifled.
What we teach our children to watch out for is adults who:
- Want to touch your private parts.
- Tell you to keep a secret from your parents.
- Tell you to do things your parents said not to do.
- Ask you to go somewhere without telling your parents.
- This includes adults you know.
With those rules in mind, we actually encourage our children to interact with strangers, and they are more adept at it than most children. I think that will help them more easily recognize the bad types of encounters compared to children who have no experience interacting with strangers.
It is a tricky balance at 5, or 30 for that matter.
When he is about that age I would start by saying that he should not approach people that he has not been introduced to by you and should immediately come get you if someone he has never seen before starts talking to him. You don't have to get too detailed, just explain that you want to make sure you know people he talks to first.
As he gets older it will get easier for him to understand and navigate, teach him to use his common sense (which shows that you trust him) and that most people are good but never to put himself in a situation where he is no longer in control.
It is scary, but it is the best that you can do. You do not want to give him either a false sense of security or a false sense that people are out to get him.
If it is any help, problems stemming from malicious adults are very rare, that does not mean that it does not happen or that it is not terrible when it does, but the likelihood of running into trouble, especially while using common sense is very low.