With every passing year of motherhood, it seems the concerns become more and more serious. At first it seemed like eating and sleeping issues were the most important thing in the world, soon followed by finding the right schools. Now as my kids begin to navigate the life outside our home, I'm consumed with how to keep them safe in a scary world.
I don't know whether there are more kidnapped children and terrifying stories of abuse lately or if I'm just that much more hyper aware. Is it just me, or does it seem like there's an Amber Alert or report of a missing child every time we turn around?
We hold hands while crossing the street, and I'm constantly reminding my kids that they shouldn't unlock the front door without an adult, and must always stay within view when we're out in public. And of course, they should never talk to people they don't know unless Mommy and Daddy are with them. But when they ask "Why, Mommy?" I'm at a loss. So here's my question. How do I teach my kids about bad people and safety without scaring the beejeezus out of them?
I turned to safety expert Lori Getz, who specializes in online dangers. She stresses it's important to empower kids to rely on their gut feelings when it comes to strangers. "I like to explain it as 'that icky feeling,'" she says.
Telling a child if they ever feel that around someone, it's absolutely OK to run away and go to a trusted adult gives them the confidence to get away from a dangerous situation. Getz says it's crucial to let your child know it's not impolite and they're not going to be in trouble for being rude.
So do I just tell them there are bad people in the world, or is that just going to create nightmares and constant fear? Getz says to keep it age-appropriate. "Explain that there are some adults who don't know how to have friendships with other adults. Instead they want to have friendships with kids and that's not right. They get it that it's not normal for adults to seek out kids for friendships."
Getz also says one of the most important things you can tell your child is: "Adults never ask children for help. If they're looking for a lost dog, they're going to go to another adult. It's a big, red flag if an adult asks a child for assistance."
As my kids leave the baby years and begin to have lives outside of our home, I'm sure my worries have just begun. How have you handled talks with your kids about safety?