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Keeping the Fear in Check

By October 11, 2010 - 12:58pm

There was a news report recently of a 9yr old boy who was sodomized by a 14yr old boy at a park not far from my house. It is one of those things that stops you in your tracks. It makes me scared for my boys to grow up, makes me scared to let them out of my sight for any amount of time. And we live in an allegedly nice part of town! How to you keep the fear from taking over? What is your greatest parenting fear if it's different from this? How do you educate your children about strangers (even other kids), without completely freaking them out?

By November 18, 2010 - 12:59pm

I know what you mean about the visiting with neighbors--this past summer we used to do that a lot. We'd set up the baby pool in the side of our house, and call the neighbors or shout to them across the yards to bring their kid over. We all would sit in camp chairs and enjoy chilled beverages, and throw some burgers or something else on the grill when the kids were done playing in the water. It was a great time--I love summer for those spontaneous afternoons/evenings when you can let the kids run crazy in the yard and visit with neighbors.

I too am not a blackberry scheduling "playdate" kind of mom...very on-the-fly with our get-togethers. :)

I do need to get a sign of some sort...

November 18, 2010 - 12:59pm
By HERWriter Guide November 18, 2010 - 10:43am

Relatives and friends phoning before coming over is a very American thing. I like it as it gives a bit of notice but I really miss all that stopping by and spontaneous time. I also can't wrap my head around "playdates" - scheduling children to play up to three weeks in advance! Horrible! My kids look out the window, see who is outside and run on off (they let me know) and play ball on the street and on the huge green area by my home. We love it!

As far as people coming to the door, I think you're right in not opening the door. I (stupidly) have opened the door before (to a religious group) and highly regretted it! I wasn't unsafe in that case but I do not think you are paranoid when it comes to that stuff. Now I do not do that anymore but we have a locked screen door so I can open the main door and talk to someone if necessary without making us vulnerable. Do you have one of these?

You can also get a No Solicitors sign too althoguh that scares off kids selling chocolate or cookies - that's not good! Try putting up a sign like that?

We also hang out with friends on our street with no advance "date" set up. We just say hi and then invite each other over and end up having dinner and drinks and great fun together. We've had some fantasic nights and others on the street see us on decks or kids running around, and join in. We did this a lot this summer and it was great for adults and kids alike! The family with an inground pool two doors down have an open invitation for anyone on the street to come over and use it when their kids do. I really don't like all this scheduled fun that is par for the course in 2010. People are too paranoid and ridgid. We can be a "70s family" without being irresponsible!

Now I don't mean anyone here is but in general, when I see parents whip out their blackberries to schedule when their overscheduled kids can play I just cringe. No way do I want that for my kids! I want them running wild and free but in a monitored way. No calendars or blackberries please ! :)

What can I say - my husband and I are a bit hippyish when it comes to this. It's all safe but it's still quite free and very spontaneous. It is no more dangerous now that it was 30 years ago (in fact, cities like New York are far safer now) but the media has destroyed carefree childhoods by insisting to parents that Big Bad Strangers are everywhere. Boo to them for that!


November 18, 2010 - 10:43am
By November 18, 2010 - 9:38am

The only thing I've heard is that the 14 yr old is in Juvenile Detention. Not sure how productive that is, but at least he won't be hurting any more little boys for the time being.
I struggle with teaching my boys "stranger danger". Even at our home, when the doorbell rings, and their father isn't home, I have a policy of not opening the door unless I'm expecting someone. I've told the boys countless times, "If we don't know them, and we're not expecting them, we don't open the door."
Friends and relatives know to call first if they're stopping by--isn't that what cellphones and texting is for? My boys immediately rush to the window by the door and push their little faces in the window, yelling that someone is there, then run to me and say someone is there, often adding, "They look nice... ." If I'm not already otherwise occupied, I call a friend or family and "pretend" I'm busy so I don't have to open the door, or go to the door with the phone to my ear and say it's a bad time and we don't take solicitations. The boys don't get it--there are things like home invasion--and I don't like to be bothered by random solicitors anyway.
OK, so I know this is at least slightly paranoid, but does anyone else do this or something similar. I need to ask if they cover "stranger danger" at their school.

November 18, 2010 - 9:38am
By HERWriter Guide November 18, 2010 - 9:16am

I agree with rlynn. As awful as that story is (that poor boy and I can bet anything the 14 year old boy has been sodomized since a small child himself) most of the dangers are with people we know. That makes it all the harder. At least we know about 'stranger danger' but the coaches and teachers and clergy and older brothers, uncles and fathers of our kids' friends. It's all too much if we really think about it.

I don't let fear take over, I guess I just want my kids to have a wild and free childhood. Therefore they play outside and play in the green areas of our street with other kids without constantly supervision (although we look out the window and monitor every 3-4 minutes).

Our kids know all 'the rules' and they are not allowed in the homes of the kids on our street (we know the parents but only to say hello and have general conversations so that's not enough for us) but anyway, there is no need to be going inside when there are footballs and bikes and basketballs to be played with!

Fear is natural and it's there for a reason; to protect us all. But used unwisely can create worries and stress that's unnecessary.

Is there any followup to that story, Christine, that you have heard?

November 18, 2010 - 9:16am
By November 6, 2010 - 12:59am

my daughter is only 2 and i do have fears about this. i try really hard not to let the fear consume me though. i don't want her to grow up with a mother so worried that she isn't able to grow. i remind myself that my job is to help her meet her fullest potential as a self-sufficient, compassionate, capable adult. and i truly feel that being over protective is counteractive to those goals.

for strangers specifically. she has a natural fear of strangers right now. i just don't push her to say hi or speak to them even if societal conventions of "politeness" say i should. but really my biggest fear isn't strangers, its the people she already knows (the acquaintances too), that could use that "relationship" or familiarity as leverage against her.

again, my daughter is only 2 so we don't exactly have conversations about the things that can and do happen. but i have tried to instill in her that her body is her body. i call everything by its proper name, i explain that they are her body parts. the toddler she is totally grabs a hold of the concept of "mine."

the other thing i do is work hard to let her know she doesn't have to hug or kiss or cuddle anyone including mommy or daddy. this one is hard because when i leave for class in the morning i do want a hug and kiss and there's a part of me that wants to "take" one despite her telling me, "no." but i have been pretty good about stepping back and reminding myself that i have a purpose for allowing her room to refuse ANYONE. i want her to know that just because someone is an adult or a family member or a "friend" of the family doesn't mean that she has to let them touch her in any manner.

i teach her no. i know this sounds silly. what 2 year old doesn't know the word no? but what i mean is i teach her to say no to adults and children who don't respect her space and to find me if they won't stop. if i am tickling her and she shrieks at me to stop or says, "no," even if she is laughing. i stop. and i tell her, "you told mommy to stop, so i will stop." if a family member is tickling her and she tells them to stop, i make them stop and i tell them, "she asked you to stop. please stop." i try to be nice about it because they certainly don't mean it in a bad way. but i want my daughter to know that her "no" does have power. especially since there are so many "no's" i cannot always respect like the "no" at bedtime and the "no" at having her diaper changed.

i am sure as she gets older i will have to think about other techniques and ways to inform her but right now, i feel this simple approach instills in her a sense that she has certain rights to her body and space and serves as a foundation for the other lessons that will have to come.

November 6, 2010 - 12:59am

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