No parent looks forward to explaining to their child that there are bad people in the world that need to be watched out for. But unfortunately it’s a necessary conversation that must be had, and all parents should make sure their children understand how important it is to be safe. A good conversation starter would be to read your child the story Hansel and Gretel, pausing along the way to expound upon the lessons about safety and staying away from strangers.

The story starts off with Hansel and Gretel deciding to go play in the woods. After reading this portion of the story, pause and discuss the situation with your child. Some questions to ask:

-What do you think about what Hansel and Gretel did?
-Is it a good idea to go away from where your parents left you without asking them first?
-What could Hansel and Gretel do better next time?
-What do you think may happen next?

Continue reading until you reach the part in the story where Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail has been eaten up. Open a discussion about what your child should do if they get lost. It’s important to have a plan in action such as telling your child it’s ok to talk to a police officer or, if one can’t be found, a parent with children. Here are some questions to ask:

-What do you think Hansel and Gretel should have done when they realized they were lost?
-What should you do if you get lost or separated from me?

Now continue the story until you reach the part where Hansel and Gretel are inside the witch’s house eating. Start a discussion about strangers and why you can’t always trust someone just because they may offer food or candy. Some questions to get your child thinking:

-Should Hansel and Gretel have stopped by the house and eaten the candy?
-Should they have gone inside with the witch?
-Does the fact that the witch is feeding them lots of food mean she is nice and someone to be trusted?

Finally, continue with the rest of the story, pointing out how the witch is found out to be evil and Hansel and Gretel learn that they should stay away from strangers and strange houses. End the story with an overall discussion of stranger danger, as well as a reminder that not all strangers are dangerous and which can be trusted to help out in a situation where your child is lost. Also remind your child (especially a younger child) that this story is just a story and an extreme example of why some strangers can be dangerous.