You're always happy to see your child bound up to another kid on the playground and make a new pal. But it's a little unnerving when your preschooler approaches an adult he doesn't know and starts chatting away. "Social skills and independence blossom at ages 4 and 5," says Charles Shubin, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. "Even a kid who used to hide behind your leg six months ago may now feel comfortable engaging anybody and everybody she meets."
That makes these years prime time to talk about safety. But many parents don't know exactly what to say. Young kids can be frightened if you don't choose your words carefully. And they can misinterpret well-intentioned warnings about strangers, secrets, and other safety issues. So it's smart to establish specific rules and explain them in a nonthreatening way. If you're feeling tongue-tied, our advice can help get the ball rolling.