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Mama Drama: Scared of Strangers

Dear Mama Drama:

My three (almost four)- year-old has always been very friendly and outgoing. She waves and chats with our neighbors and speaks easily to other family friends.

Recently, she has begun behaving very differently with two families in the neighborhood. She hides behind me or my husband and won’t say hello. We feel very embarrassed and are not sure what to make of her behavior. We have talked with her about how rude this is and asked her why she won’t say hello. She can’t really give us any explanation other than that she doesn’t want to.

We don’t see these neighbors as often as others and are just casual acquaintances. We probably didn’t see them for four or five months during the cold winter weather before the behavior began. We also haven’t had any conversations with her about stranger safety so don’t think she would be scared of strangers.

We want her to be polite and don’t want to offend our neighbors, yet this doesn’t make any sense to us.

~Perplexed Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Perplexed:

You indicate that you have not talked with your daughter about stranger safety. Even though she is only three it is important to begin those conversations early and continue them often as she grows. Start small with information specific to the situations she will be in such as going to preschool or day care, playing at the park, shopping, or walking in the neighborhood. The basics are teaching her to stay with the grown up in charge of her unless that person tells her it is okay to go with or talk to someone else. Talking about these situations just before they occur will help her to remember the behavior you expect from her.

Children have different comfort levels interacting with adults and this can change with varying