MOTHERHOOD

stranger danger

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I hate starting the week with this kind of topic, so I’m going to ease into it by asking a question that was flowing through my head in the wee hours this morning–3am to be exact. I woke up to the sounds of Elizabeth cooing and grunting in her crib, before she fell back to sleep, but it left me  up and unable to get back to sleep.

If you have a child in kindergarten do you say she is:
a) a kinder-GART-ner
b)a kinder-GARTEN-er
c)a kinder-GARD-ner
d)a kinder-GARDEN-er

I’m struggling with that one.

P1010064

Here’s the other thing I’m thinking about. Unfortunately, more serious. Fortunately, not keeping me up in the middle of the night.

Last week, Emma and Mary were playing in the driveway in front of the ‘big house’ here on the farm. And they came inside to tell me that a man in a black truck pulled over, waved at them and took their picture. They thought nothing of it and weren’t at all thrown by the event.

Now, I’m pretty sure it was all innocent. To be honest, without sounding "showy-offy", my grandparents’ house is photo-worthy and they were right in front of it, so the picture may not have been of them. And, to be honest, my kids are pretty good looking, so…..kidding. well no, but yes.

Anyway, this brings up the topic with me of how do you instill in your children a sense of caution without creating a sense of fear? I want them to feel safe and free, especially when they are home. But above all I want them to be safe and protected. I want them to know you can’t get in the car with a stranger and you really shouldn’t even go near the car of a stranger. But I also don’t want them bolting and screaming at the first sight of someone they don’t know. I want them to be brave and strong and polite and safe.

Sometimes I think they could use a little dose of fear. But I’m not exactly sure how to balance that with creating a sense of security.

There have also been times when I’ve gone to a store and they’ve been tired and begged to just stay in the car and play while I run in to get what I need. I can remember doing that all the time when I was younger–playing "Charlie’s Angels" in the back of our orange VW bus with my best friend, Kelly, while mom got groceries. But you can’t do that today. I try to simply tell them "it’s not safe" when they ask to just wait in the car, without getting in to all the details–a bad person might come and snatch you from the car and take you away from mommy and do bad things to you and I’d never see you again. No. I’m not going to tell them that and leave them bug-eyed, speechless and attached to my pant leg for the rest of their young lives.

So, what do you do? How do you balance caution and security, freedom and boundaries? Is there a balance?   Is it still possible to have both of these things in today’s world? Is there such a thing as a healthy dose of fear?

For now, I haven’t changed the way I do anything. I’m just doubly sure that my hundred-pound yellow labrador retriever who barks like an attack dog at any hint of a visitor is always on-duty when the girls are outside. Thankfully, when I say, "go find the girls!" he noses open the handle on the front screen door and wanders out to find them.

But I’m not sure all of us are ready to invest in a yellow lab like mine. So what do you do? I can’t seem to find the chapter on this in the parenting manual they give us after our children are born….

P1010069

I hate starting the week with this kind of topic, so I’m going to ease into it by asking a question that was flowing through my head in the wee hours this morning–3am to be exact. I woke up to the sounds of Elizabeth cooing and grunting in her crib, before she fell back to sleep, but it left me  up and unable to get back to sleep.

If you have a child in kindergarten do you say she is:
a) a kinder-GART-ner
b)a kinder-GARTEN-er
c)a kinder-GARD-ner
d)a kinder-GARDEN-er

I’m struggling with that one.

P1010064

Here’s the other thing I’m thinking about. Unfortunately, more serious. Fortunately, not keeping me up in the middle of the night.

Last week, Emma and Mary were playing in the driveway in front of the ‘big house’ here on the farm. And they came inside to tell me that a man in a black truck pulled over, waved at them and took their picture. They thought nothing of it and weren’t at all thrown by the event.

Now, I’m pretty sure it was all innocent. To be honest, without sounding "showy-offy", my grandparents’ house is photo-worthy and they were right in front of it, so the picture may not have been of them. And, to be honest, my kids are pretty good looking, so…..kidding. well no, but yes.

Anyway, this brings up the topic with me of how do you instill in your children a sense of caution without creating a sense of fear? I want them to feel safe and free, especially when they are home. But above all I want them to be safe and protected. I want them to know you can’t get in the car with a stranger and you really shouldn’t even go near the car of a stranger. But I also don’t want them bolting and screaming at the first sight of someone they don’t know. I want them to be brave and strong and polite and safe.

Sometimes I think they could use a little dose of fear. But I’m not exactly sure how to balance that with creating a sense of security.

There have also been times when I’ve gone to a store and they’ve been tired and begged to just stay in the car and play while I run in to get what I need. I can remember doing that all the time when I was younger–playing "Charlie’s Angels" in the back of our orange VW bus with my best friend, Kelly, while mom got groceries. But you can’t do that today. I try to simply tell them "it’s not safe" when they ask to just wait in the car, without getting in to all the details–a bad person might come and snatch you from the car and take you away from mommy and do bad things to you and I’d never see you again. No. I’m not going to tell them that and leave them bug-eyed, speechless and attached to my pant leg for the rest of their young lives.

So, what do you do? How do you balance caution and security, freedom and boundaries? Is there a balance?   Is it still possible to have both of these things in today’s world? Is there such a thing as a healthy dose of fear?

For now, I haven’t changed the way I do anything. I’m just doubly sure that my hundred-pound yellow labrador retriever who barks like an attack dog at any hint of a visitor is always on-duty when the girls are outside. Thankfully, when I say, "go find the girls!" he noses open the handle on the front screen door and wanders out to find them.

But I’m not sure all of us are ready to invest in a yellow lab like mine. So what do you do? I can’t seem to find the chapter on this in the parenting manual they give us after our children are born….

32 comments on “stranger danger”

  1. You should read Protecting The Gift by Gavin De Becker. It is not a scare the pants off of you book. It is reassuring and full of good advice.

  2. I struggle with this as well. I live in Brooklyn in a not so nice at times neighborhood. For me playing outside alone is an absolute no. We unfortunately have had instances of near abduction so this is warranted for my family. I am very scary by nature and it seems that I have passed this on to my eldest. I struggle with her fear when it’s not warranted but I am thankful for it when I hear these terrible stories. I may read the book Maya suggested too.

  3. I wish I had an answer, I may have to look into that book that Maya recommended in the comment above. Peter is super super super paranoid, and I think that sometimes throws me in the opposite direction subconsciously (why CAN’T they do this…or do that…) We were told to discuss the idea of stranger danger with our kids when they went to Kindergarten (Kindergarten-er, is the term to use by the way). I’ve touched on the subject only as much as I needed to so far. I have told the kids that if I don’t say hello to a person, he or she is considered a “stranger”. If they smile at us, they are still strangers, we don’t know them. There really is enough out there to scare the crap out of you, no? xo

  4. I’m agree with Blair that kindergarten-er is the correct description, but that said, I pronounce it like your first option: kinderGARTner. Actually, I usually just say “he’s in kinder”.

    Every once in a while I have a case of the willies about child abductions. I don’t know what to say, I’ve just recently started explaining that he needs to stay close to me because sometimes something bad might happen. Actually it was my mom who brought this up, I guess it was the custom many years ago to scare the pants off little ones so they’ll stay with their mamas? Luckily he didn’t stay scared for long but he seems to have retained the message. And we reinforce a mellower version than my mom’s.

  5. Molly, I’ve been thinking about this very topic for the past few weeks. I love that my boys are outgoing and chatty, but I am trying to figure out that right balance of being friendly yet fearful. Thanks for posting, I’m looking forward to reading comments from other moms.

  6. This is a scary topic – we have a program in Australia called protective behaviours which teaches how to keep you kids safe – one thing to remember it that only a very small proportion of offenders are strangers – the vast majority are people known to the child.

  7. I wish I knew. We just end up praying constantly and keep our awnsers simple”You cannot do that because it is not safe.” My son does tend to ask more questions, and telling him there are mean people who might want to hurt him and or take him from us seems to satisfy the “why nots?” without inducing fear.

    He’s almost 4 and very logical for his age, so telling him straight up in a matter of fact fashion works. If I say it in an overly concerned manner he becomes overly concerned. Be honest, keep it casual, and keep it simple.

  8. I thought you were going to post about the actual “Stranger Danger” program that we have here. A local funeral home does programs for schools and church groups for free, because they see way too many children that didn’t know how to find “safe strangers” if they were lost or to protect themselves from preditors. With all the junk on tv and the internet these days, I think it’s increased the amount of crimes against our children. Anything you can do to keep them safe and take away the risk of losing them is a good thing. Fear is not bad–it keeps us out of trouble! And children shouldn’t be allowed to play alone in front of the house with traffic going by.

  9. A to the first question and as for the rest, I think honesty is the best policy. You can tell your child the truth, without making them terrified. Be matter of fact, let them understand the gravity, but don’t overreact and don’t show them you’re scared. Perhaps install a code word into the family, which can be fun. Tell them they can’t go with anyone who doesn’t know the code word and then make sure granny and gramps and other relatives who may pick them up know it too. Tell them if they ever feel scared, or if someone they don’t know talks to them or makes them feel uncomfortable, to go and find an adult they can trust (mommy, daddy, relative, teacher, uniformed worker, etc.) Kids are suprisingly intuitive if they understand their perameters.

  10. We have a family code word that we first came up with after a concerning incodent like yours. My oldest son is 5 and he seems to understand the concept. Only me, my husband and my kids will know the word and he knows to ask anyone he doesn’t know what the code word is if he feels unsafe or if they ask him to come with them. And if they don’t know the code word he’s supposed to get help right away from someone he does know.

    I think I will review all this with him tomorrow to see if he remembers this plan! I also want my boys to be brave, strong and safe and smart about these things. I guess I don’t care so much about the polite part when it comes to stuff like this. 🙂

  11. I have always been honest with my girls in a very matter of fact way and answered all their questions calmly.It is sad but vital these days that all children are aware that not everybody thinks like them.Knowing of the potential dangers of strangers can empower them to walk away from any situation they feel is uncomfortable.It is possible for them to know something is dangerous without actually been afraid of it.Just think of how you teach them about fires and hot water etc.

  12. Kindy kid!I have gone with the scare option. It hasn’t made them clingy, but cautious. My feeling was that it was more important for them to now I was SERIOUS!!!! I said almost exactly what you were thinking – nearly word for word. Someone needs to write children’s books dealing with this..you know ‘friendly people’ are still strangers – but sensitively done. You can also do the ‘Circle’ concept that they do in schools – you can get them to do it with you as a drawing activity. People in our inner circle = mummy, daddy, siblings, granny. Next circle out = aunts, uncles, friends. Next = teachers, neighbours. Next = strangers including post man, shop keepers, librarian – whom ever you see in your week. You discuss the kinds of contact that you can have with the people in each circle – 1st circle – hugging, kissing, talking, pat on the head, back rubs, tickles. Then you go through each circle removing the physical things and replacing them with ‘hello’s’ etc. You can talk about how close they can get to their bodies – 2 steps, 5 steps etc. The circles look like the rings on a tree. I hope I’ve explained this okay. Email me if you have a question. You can make it fun with writing and drawing or photos. I think I might have to so this with Lily…come to think of it.

  13. You can roleplay as well. Go out to the front of your grandparents house and get your husband to re-inact the black car thing. This time they have to follow your instructions.

  14. This is a great conversation starter, Molly. Thankfully, my very friendly son has a creepy person radar. It’s been amazing to see his reaction to people that he’s not so sure about. But still, talking all the time to them about being “safe” has helped. I know that there are horrible things that happen everyday, if I dwelt on that all day I would never leave my house. I trust God that He will continue to protect us and give us wisdom and grace. I mean, whats better than that unchanging hand protecting them! That’s probably why I’ve kept my kids with me more than average. I guess. The more time I have to communicate this wisdom to them the better. I bet teaching them to say a loud hearty NO would benefit with aquaintances that are threatening. Because it can be forgiven if nothing happened. I guess the next topic is when do you tell your kids about sex?

  15. I vote for (c).

    Children under the age of 8 cannot grasp the concept of stranger danger and should not be expected to deal with that situation alone. They’ve done some research that shows that predators are far more sophisticated than we give them credit for. You simply cannot teach a child to avoid the danger.

    Close supervision is the best prevention. And I agree that most of the danger that children face is not from a stranger but from people the children know well.

    I watched a tv show one time on how this ped*phile cased this family, befriended them, established trust and then mol*sted the little boys. It was eye opening!

    The risk from a stranger is so low. I would do exactly what you’ve already done. Teach them not to speak to people they don’t know and let them have their innocence.

    (PS. The asterisks are to prevent wierdos from coming here from search engines.)

  16. I have very vivid memories of when I was, I don’t know, somewhere around 3 or 5 years old (so early 70’s) where I was waiting outside an antique shop in England (my parents had gone in there, but I hated them so wouldn’t be surprised if I pitched a fit and ran out of it) and a man in a large car pulled over, opened the door, leaned across the front passenger seat and offered me candy. I ran inside, but didn’t tell my parents about it for some time. I don’t know if he tried to take me, or if he threatened me if I told anyone, but I remember being frightened to share the story with my parents.

    But I DO know that as a little kid, it felt like the situation was wrong and I left it. I don’t know if my parents had warned me about strangers or not.

    I’d say encourage your children to share their encounters and daily stories with you and I think the circle idea mentioned earlier sounds great. But mostly, encourage them to share their concerns with you.

  17. As a survivor of childhood and teenage abuse, I applaud you all on your efforts to keep your little ones safe. Keep doing everything you’re already doing, but please do remember, as katiek and sally already pointed out, that most offenders know the children – often quite well. In 90% of assaults on children less than 12 years old, the child knew the offender. While the “stranger danger” approach is both necessary and valid, it equally (if not more) important to teach them about inapropriate touching, etc. And, in the worse case senario, make sure you impress upon your kids that it’s okay for them to talk to you about this, no matter what anyone says might happen if they do. I cannot exaggerate how important your reaction is if (god forbid) this tragedy should ever befall your family. Generally, the more accepting, believing, and outwardly calm you are, the better. The sad truth is that currently one in three girls and one in seven boys report being abused at some point in their childhood, and that number is probably much, much higher since many kids (especially boys) do not tell anyone. Don’t stop talking about this topic once your kids get to be teenagers. Teenagers are vulnerable in many ways once they start exploring sexuality on their own. Empower your older kids with self defense classes, and give them the tools they need to recognize a truly dangerous situation and avoid or escape it.

  18. We have talked to our kids alot about stranger danger. I really liked the book about strangers with the Berenstain bears. But I think someone else mentioned that most molestations are from someone the child knows. We remind our children that “privates” are private. We don’t talk about/touch/look at other’s privates nor do we let others talk/touch/look at ours except with parents and doctors. And we encourage our kids to tell us if anything happens. Unfortunately, we have had to deal with this. Thankfully, my child wasn’t molested, but it could have led there.

    As for leaving kids in the car, it’s against the law here, so that is my easy excuse.

  19. I’m going to have to come back and read all the replies later but I wanted to tell you two things: one is that the man taking the photo most likely is safe because he waved and made himself seen, not trying to talk the girls into talking to him. Of course if he comes once again I’d be concerned because he’d be trying to make himself comfortable with the kids.

    Secondly, I teach my kids this lesson during the homeschooling preschool years and adapt it each year to use over and over again with the older kids as well. Little Red Riding Hood is one of my all time favorite fairy tales but it does have a very good point to it that helps take the “fear” factor out of teaching our kids about strangers. One site that does really well with getting this started is: http://www.first-school.ws/activities/onlinestory/steps/redridinghood/htm

    Molly, you know I would never steer you wrong when it comes to teaching our kids…I highly recommend having fun with this subject as well as informative. The next unit study I typically do after this one is fire safety. We do a field trip to the fire department (we have friends there), ambulance is located there (sil is the EMT there), and we have close friends in the police department. So we ask these folks yearly to give us field trips to keep the kids alert and remember all the safety lessons. Email me (I’ve got some fun things I want to send you if you don’t mind for this unit study). Lastly, with the fire safety lesson I was really surprised what I learned as well: we never had a fire route planned for the kids, where they needed to be out of harms way in one location in case of a fire (we meet on our neighbors deck), and an emergency kit in case of bad weather also is a good add on to this (tool box or zippered bag filled with items like flash light, batteries, snack, matches, candles, water bottles, warm blanket, etc.)

  20. Once again Molly you have overwhelmed me. The last time was looking for food shopping budgeting tips. This being a much more serious issue I am going to muster my energy and comment.

    Let me start by saying my children have finished college. PFEW! Since graduation child #1 has been on her own in an east coast city. #2 travels, hikes and camps alone. This issue might be the only one that soothes the sting of not having little ones any more. Consider yourself warned: the worry is here to stay.

    You have gotten so many good comments here and I would implement Allison’s “code system” right away.

    I would NOT let my children out of my sight unless they were in the care of and not out of sight of another trusted adult. No exceptions.

    Not hovering, I don’t mean that, in sight, we can see pretty far.It’s not easy at times, but if you can do this you can skip having to instill fear. You already work “little fears” into their daily life: hot stove, deep pool, look both ways etc. By the time they are old enough to be a little independent they can handle more cautions. This is another reminder, rules vary from house to house don’t hesitate to be comfortable when they are at a friends house by asking their rules.

  21. Jude’s suggestion about role-playing is a good one. I once watched a Dr Phil episode devoted to Stranger Danger and boy, was it scary.The kids were put in a room and given a talk about the dangers of talking to strangers. A little while later they were taken to a playground. Someone from the studio rolled up in a big black SUV, jumped out, approached the kids and told them he had puppies in his car “who would like to see them?” – in less than 2 minutes he was driving off with about 5 small children in his car. The conclusion was that in moments like that kids don’t think. You need to instill reactions to situations by role-playing them. That’s what Dr Phil says anyway.

    There are a few comments above that I don’t agree with, however. Yes, it is usually people who are close to the kids who commit the abuse… some of you seem to think that that precludes grand-parents and parents. We’d all like to believe that this type of abuse doesn’t happen, but it does… all too often. My two sisters and I were all abused by our father. I also know girls who were abused by step-dads, granddads, boys who were abused by uncles, and the list goes on. It is scarily commonplace. I believe one of the most important things you can do is let the child decide what physical contact they are comfortable with – no matter whether if it’s a close relative or not. If your little one doesn’t want to hug Uncle Jo because he looks at her funny or because he’s a bit creepy, so be it. I don’t kiss or hug people I don’t particularly like, so why should my kids have to?

  22. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to read through all the posts YET to see if anybody mentioned this already, but I picked up a good book at a garage sale to read to the kiddos called Learn About Strangers by the Berenstain Bears. It’s not something we read all the time but it’s a friendly way of letting the kids know that sometimes there are bad apples in the barrel even if they look nice on the outside. There’s a nice list of rules for Brother and Sister Bear in the back of the book.

  23. Thank you for this post, and to all of the commenters. I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with this (especially with a very outgoing and friendly daughter), so I do appreciate it.

  24. Dear Molly, I was browsing BabyCenter last week and went bloghopping when your blog was mentioned. I was hooked ever since. Here I am, all the way in Asia and we too have been scared with some recent event, most of what you have written is also near and dear to my heart. I have 4 kids, youngest being my 3 mths baby girl Safia- maybe we are on the same birthclub. I have read some of your earlier post and am amazed on how we as mothers are similar although we live in different part of the world. I think I’ll be a regular here…

  25. I have instilled in Ben some stranger danger (he turns 4 next month). This hasn’t made him fearful or changed his super-friendly, chatty self. He knows anyone we don’t know is a stranger- and that some people in this world are not good and can hurt you. He knows he can only talk to strangers when I am with him….like the other night at the restaurant where he made his rounds to the neighboring tables showing his new cape off that Grandma made.He does stick close to me in stores because he is concerned about getting lost. I think this is a good thing though- I want him to stick close. He knows if he gets lost to look for a policeman, fireman, or a mommy who has kids with her- they can help him find me.I guess it depends on your child’s temperment. Ben is an extroverted, confident kid so he seems to be taking in stride this information I have given about strangers and the presence of “not nice” people in the world.

  26. I understand that there are bad bad people out there, but there definitely is a fine line between teaching your children safety and scaring them silly–as you say. I think too often parents lean toward the latter and damage their children socially. Shyness is a different thing altogether than children being taught to be afraid of others.

  27. I’d just like to respond to Dacia, since there seem to be a lot of people who are concerned about damaging their children socially by scaring them silly. I strongly believe that children can handle the less agreeable facts of life when they are presented in an age appropriate, matter of fact kind of way. It is so important that they know WHY they aren’t supposed to do things (again, in an age appropriate way) so that they actually remember the rules. Even if it were true that you could change your child’s personalty by giving them “scary” information, a shy child has a lot less to heal from than an abused one. Child abuse changes everything, forever.

  28. I have 4 kids; now 13, 11, 8 and 6. I have always been really careful with the whole “stranger danger” thing as my view is that not all strangers are bad and that many of them are parents like me and would be only too willing to help a child in genuine need. I wanted my kids to feel that if they were ever lost or in trouble of some kind that they could ask someone for help…usually a woman with children…but I don’t want to teach them that all men are predators. What kind of message does that send to young boys????

    I think kids have a really good radar and are very intuitive and this is what I have really impressed upon them. To totally trust how they feel even if what the person is doing doesn’t seem wrong. I once had a man follow me down my drive when I was in 6th grade walking home from school. I was a latch key kid, but I knew the last thing I should do was let him know I was home on my own. I knew that even though he was saying nice things to me it was wrong and I didn’t try to go in the house, I just called my dog over and told him that I wasn’t interested in what he was trying to “sell” me. I really can’t remember the details, just how I felt. But I didn’t tell my parents until I was an adult. I think that is the part kids really need to know…that they can tell their parents and it’s not their fault that someone behaved in this way.

    I tell my kids to always stick together. I tell them that there are bad people out there who want to do bad things to children to which they reply “why?”. A question I can’t answer. They do so much of this at school these days that they have stock of standard answers about going with people and stranger danger, but I don’t think that they really get it. So I try and impress upon them that they need to trust their instincts and if something doesn’t feel right, they should come and tell someone they really trust like a parent or teacher.

    I think it’s our job as parents to give our kids tools for dealing with situations in life rather than protecting them from everything. Obviously you don’t put them in situation where there is a strong risk (I never let my younger kids play in the front yard near the road without me being out there with them, but they can play away from the road without constant supervision). I find it harder now with my 13 year old. Trying to give him the freeom he craves while at the same time teaching him that he needs to check in, and be back when he says etc.

    Thanks for this topic Molly, and sorry I’ve gone on so much. But I’ve been thinking about it since you posted. Interestingly, my youngest son has joined cubscouts and part of getting his first badge requires me to sit down and discuss all this kind of thing with him (including internet usage-I may do the same activities with the older boys too). And I think you are right to delete it all…The internet is probably the biggest danger to all our kids these days.

  29. This is such a scary topic for parents, isn’t it? We had a great gal come to our ECFE meeting and this is what she suggested. 1. Dont’ freak out. Explain the dangers to your kids, but remember, you talk to strangers every day – the grocery clerk, the guy at the gas station… 2. teach your kid to ask you about everything, even for people they know. Most child abduction is people the kids know. Teaching our girls to say, “I have to ask my grownup/mom/dad first.” has been a lifesaver. We had a neighbor that thought we were still running errands and weren’t home when our oldest got off of the bus. We were home – we wouldn’t let her come home alone. But she never came home. We called the school. We called the bus company. We were frantic. Then she came home with the neighbor – a very nice old lady. Since that time, she will always say, “let me ask my grownup first.” 3. If the child get separated from you in a store, tell them to find another mom to ask for help. No mom wants more kids than what they came in with. A mom or someone in a store uniform.It helped me feel less stressed out, and the girls know what to do.

  30. This is such a scary topic for parents, isn’t it? We had a great gal come to our ECFE meeting and this is what she suggested. 1. Dont’ freak out. Explain the dangers to your kids, but remember, you talk to strangers every day – the grocery clerk, the guy at the gas station… 2. teach your kid to ask you about everything, even for people they know. Most child abduction is people the kids know. Teaching our girls to say, “I have to ask my grownup/mom/dad first.” has been a lifesaver. We had a neighbor that thought we were still running errands and weren’t home when our oldest got off of the bus. We were home – we wouldn’t let her come home alone. But she never came home. We called the school. We called the bus company. We were frantic. Then she came home with the neighbor – a very nice old lady. Since that time, she will always say, “let me ask my grownup first.” 3. If the child get separated from you in a store, tell them to find another mom to ask for help. No mom wants more kids than what they came in with. A mom or someone in a store uniform.It helped me feel less stressed out, and the girls know what to do.

  31. This is such a scary topic for parents, isn’t it? We had a great gal come to our ECFE meeting and this is what she suggested. 1. Dont’ freak out. Explain the dangers to your kids, but remember, you talk to strangers every day – the grocery clerk, the guy at the gas station… 2. teach your kid to ask you about everything, even for people they know. Most child abduction is people the kids know. Teaching our girls to say, “I have to ask my grownup/mom/dad first.” has been a lifesaver. We had a neighbor that thought we were still running errands and weren’t home when our oldest got off of the bus. We were home – we wouldn’t let her come home alone. But she never came home. We called the school. We called the bus company. We were frantic. Then she came home with the neighbor – a very nice old lady. Since that time, she will always say, “let me ask my grownup first.” 3. If the child get separated from you in a store, tell them to find another mom to ask for help. No mom wants more kids than what they came in with. A mom or someone in a store uniform.It helped me feel less stressed out, and the girls know what to do.

  32. Hey Molly, I also recommend the book Protecting the Gift as Maya did. My kids are 15, 12, and almost 9 and I am still very protective of them. They are all in karate and I think that has been very helpful in empowering them with self-defense techniques besides making them strong. My daughter is now a brown belt but I’ve told her that she has to have her black belt before she can date 😉 I definitely talk about all this stuff with the kids. I remind them to always be conscious of their surroundings – look up and around, stand up straight – notice big sticks or rocks that can be used as a weapon. I tell my kids that bad people want an easy target: a kid by themselves, shuffling along, looking down. They are supposed to yell and scream and bite and kick and anything else they can think of too. You could give your girls whistles to where around their necks and instruct them to use it if they feel scared or get lost or in danger. Anytime I see behavior in real life or on TV that just seems to invite a problem I point it out to the kids. When my kids were younger they were always supposed to be within seeing distance of me; now they just aren’t allowed to go anywhere alone and must always have a partner. I’m sure I’m over protective but I guess I’d rather err in that direction than be too lenient and have something happen. It doesn’t seem to have had any negative effect on the kids either.

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