Instead of: Don't talk to strangers
Say: Check with me or your dad or your babysitter before talking to another grown-up.
"The concept of a stranger can be hard for a young child to grasp," says Nancy McBride, safety director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in Alexandria, Virginia.
"For instance, your kid may see the clerk at the bank more often than he sees his aunt who lives across the country." So rather than relying on a 4-year-old's interpretation, McBride says it's best to have your child get permission from you before he strikes up a conversation or goes anywhere with any adult other than his parents. You could instruct your child to ask if it's okay or to look at you and you'll nod or shake your head.