I must say, this world today can be a terrifying place. This coming from one who remembers an age not so long ago where leaving the door unlocked when leaving the house, or when you were asleep, was done without a second thought.
Now, I was a fearless kid for the most part. I didn’t worry about every little “stranger”, or even hesitate talking to them. Let’s face it! I grew up without a Father, and with a Mother who worked often to make ends meet. An only child, no one ever knew where I was! Heck, I’d ride my bike so far some days that I wouldn’t even know where I was. But alas, those days are long gone. Sigh…
In these days a parent listens to every emergency chime on the tv, hears every siren, is leary of every strange looking person, and has more locks on their doors than hudini wore in a coffin underwater. The fact is, people are afraid for their children. The urge is to lock them in their rooms, check on them every 5 minutes, and keep a GPS tracking device around their neck. What child deserves this? None.
Parents do have to be very cautious of their children, but I fear the results of fear. Odd thought process? Not really if you consider that fear does nothing but generate more fear. If we are fearful of our children, where they go, and what they do, then they too will be fearful of the same. I believe, as a parent of several children, from young ages to teen, that there are ways to “keep an eye” on them, without staring at them 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to share a few of them with you.
1. Always know where your child is!
I remember when I was a kid at 11 O’ Clock every night this mans voice would come on and say, “It’s 11 pm. Do you know where your child is?” Simple as it was, it always was answered by my Mother or Grandmother, if I was sitting there, with a “yes”, followed by a hug around the shoulders. Today, with everything being as busy and hectic as it is, it’s hard to even know where you are sometimes, much less every member of your household. But it is possible to keep tabs.
The first and foremost important thing is to teach your children the responsibility of always telling the truth, and reporting the facts. My children know that I do not care for the little “not me” character that lives here. If I ever catch him… ahem. I try to teach them to always tell the truth, and that the consequences for whatever ‘accident’ will be less severe if they are truthful. The have found this to be true on my part, and thereby, for the most part, tell me the truth no matter what. This has helped as they’ve grown older. They now tell me where they are going, what they are doing, and have learned it’s better to be truthful. I can trust them this way. Even when my youngest teen age daughter goes out, she has a cell phone, and will answer it any time I call. It’s not that I do it out of mistrust to check up on her, it’s just that if I need to talk to her, or if she needs me, the ability and the trust is in place.
Even with the younger ones, I always know where they are if they are outside. Note: That is not their job, it’s mine! If they want to go outside, I either keep my tasks close to a window, or I sit on the deck or gasp! actually play with them. Never are they out of sight or ear shot, even in our own back yard. Keeping good tabs on the location of your children greatly increases the possibility of reaching them quickly if they need you.
2. Educate your children.
Silence is deadly. Too often today children are taught not to cry, not to tattle, not to speak out of turn, not to, not to, not to. The fact is a hurt or scared child should be a noisy child! Now there is an understandable fine line that has to be navigated here, and I understand it fully. I don’t want my children freaking out and screaming at the top of their lungs because the neighbor brings a pie over. For one, I like pie, and two, I don’t want the neighbors thinking I’ve raised a bunch of shrieking banshees. I have educated my children to “sound the alarm” if a stranger gets too close, or tries to grab one of them. Odds are if a child is abducted, it rarely comes out well. I would rather have my child kick, bite, scream and make an abductor earn it, than to have them so diciplined to silence that they go without a peep. My children have been taught to run from strangers but to never leave one another behind. I have told them that if one of them gets grabbed, the others are to scream at the top of their lungs for help.
Now, you may say I have made my children paranoid and fearful. Actually quite the opposite. Fear paralyzes you. I have no interest in them freezing up in a critical situation. However, I have taught my children about talking to and approaching strangers. I have let them know about children who are kidnapped, and they see the news stories of the results. I do not inform them to scare them, I inform them to make them aware of their surroundings. My children play freely at the park, have plenty of friends, and are well rounded socially. You don’t scare them to death, you educate them to truth. The truth is, it’s not always safe, you shouldn’t go out alone, and don’t wander off where no one can see you or knows where you are. These are sound educational principles that every child should know.
3. Teach them survival.
I hate nothing worse than to hear about a child lost in the woods, found dead several days later, if ever. Teach your children how to survive. Now, I’m not talking about eating bugs & scraping rain water out of a large plant. I’m talking about teaching them to stay calm in high stress situations, teaching them to relax and think, not react and blunder along. Many children who are lost would survive if they would just sit down and wait. Many wander far out of the projected search zones, and end up dying, not because people aren’t looking, but because they panic. Even for simple things at home, a child must be taught how to handle themselves in bad situations. 1. Make sure they know their address and home phone, cell phone, work phone, and any other place they can reach someone to help them. 2. Teach them to look for uniformed officers, firefighters, etc. if they need help. 3. Make sure you have a fire plan, even for the day time, including a meeting place outside the house. 4. Teach them how to go to the basement, or whatever the safest place you have, in the event of bad storms. 5. Always make sure your children know how to call 911, how to reach a neighbor or relative you trust, and how to do simple things for themselves at home.
Obviously these are broad spectrum things, and not every child will be able to do them. But we as parents owe it to these children to be as aware as possible and to teach them every thing we can to give them the best chance at surviving a bad situation. Obviously these perpetrators, pedophiles and others who harm children are a very present problem. I want to hover over my children and protect them as much as any parent. But fear cannot be our motivator. I want my children to be strong, confident, and never afraid to approach any situation in their life. By teaching them practical limitations, safety and awareness, they can grow normally in social skills, as well as life skills.
Never be afraid to call and check on your child. In spite of what they say, they do love you for it.
It’s 11 O’ clock. Do you know where your child is?