When the abduction of Tori Stafford first happened, student safety became the main topic of conversation at school. My son talked about it at dinner and how he was a guard for his classroom. He explained that all the kids were on guard for themselves and each other in his classroom; looking for people who didn’t belong. He also demonstrated his escape routine of kicking and yelling. And I know I wasn’t the only parent feeling a renewed concern for my kids safety. Fellow blogger at the Parent Club wrote a post about similar concerns she was feeling with her young kids.
I agree, my children’s safety is very important. But I find I’m caught in a dilemma of keeping my children safe and aware and keeping them children. I’m fortunate that my two oldest children have inherited their dad’s extroverted, friendly nature (my youngest seems to jump between her shy, introverted mom side and her friendly, extroverted dad side). They talk to people in line, they greet people they pass on the street and readily give out hugs. When we transferred to our new school just after Christmas, one that was closer to our house, my kids adjusted easily and quickly. Now we walk onto the school grounds and parents, kid and teachers alike know them and want to talk to them. I love this about my kids. It’s part of who they are and I think this is something that will help them as they grow older and are confronted by bigger challenges.
But now there are these damn predators. I know this isn’t a new problem but it’s became more relevant to me when my kids entered the school system, a zone where I’m not there to protect them. I’ve tried having the ‘stranger’ conversation with my kids.
Son: But I know Micheal
Me: Who’s Micheal?
Son: A boy at school. He told me his name so he’s not a stranger to me. I know his name now. Strangers are people you don’t know their names.
We’ve explained to our kids that unless mom or dad are with them that they aren’t to go with anyone; that they shouldn’t talk to other adults and hugs are just for close friends and family.
I don’t help matters by using the idea of strangers to scare my kids into behaviour. You know the conversation, ‘ don’t go around the corner where I can’t see you because someone might grab you and toss you in van and take you far away’. Yeah, my parenting at it’s best. If you haven’t had this conversation, I’m sure you’ve heard some other mom lecturing her child in a shopping mall.
My kids are still fairly young and don’t go anywhere on their own. I hope in my haphazard parenting methods I can teach them what to look out for and protect themselves without loosing their outgoing, free-spirited nature. I hope I never have to endure the guilt and pain that Tori Stafford’s family are going through. I wish no one had to. But since we don’t live in a eutopia, perhaps a review of parenting expert Alyson Schafer’s rules on street proofing your kids might be a good place to start.