The other afternoon my tween daughter walked to the local shops (about 300m from our home) with her cousin. It was just a fun little excursion to spend some pocket money on a chocolate bar after several days of exams! She normally takes her phone, she normally comes straight home and she is normally only gone about half an hour. As it started to rain and was beginning to get dark my panic level rose. She hadn’t taken a phone as she lost it a few weeks ago and her cousin doesn’t own a phone so I wasn’t able to contact either of them. Thinking my daughter may have gone to her cousin’s home I rang their home phone and it rang out, then I contacted my brother in law only to find out he and is wife weren’t at home. At this point real fear started to kick in. I walked to their house to see if there was anyone home. To my relief and simultaneous irritation my daughter and her cousin were home watching TV, totally oblivious to my concern.
As we made our way home I gave my daughter a stern talking to, telling her I was worried, as I didn’t know if she had come to any harm. Not half an hour later I saw a Facebook post about an incident the day before where two young girls had been approached by a stranger to hop in his car at the exact bus stop my kids’ use. Being topical, I thought it best to let my daughters know to be vigilant about keeping away from strangers given what had just occurred. I also thought it gave weight to my concerns that my daughter had felt were just me being over-protective.
Unfortunately the result from our discussion is that my tween daughter is now terrified of where we live. She is worried she will be abducted and wants to move house to a safe part of the world. What was meant to be a precaution has now turned into a real fear. If I had realized she would be so traumatized by the information, I would not have told her, but now the damage is done.
I had to explain that everywhere in the world there is a very small element of society where mentally ill people do things that are morally and legally wrong. We can’t live our life in fear of these people, we just need to be aware and not put ourselves in situations where we may come to harm. I also tried to put her mind at ease by asking how many times she and her friends had been abducted in her life – a grand total of zero! I also tried to appease her by telling her that due to the publicity this incident had received it is extremely unlikely that the perpetrator will attempt to do the same thing in the same place again.
I wish we lived in a world where kids could be free to roam and come home at sunset like we did as kids, but unfortunately that is not the case. I want my kids to grow in responsibility and freedom without having to wrap them in cotton wool, but more than that I want them to be safe. Kids need to know about ‘stranger danger’ without losing their sense of security. It’s a fine balance – one that at the moment in our household is tipped more towards fear than safety. I’m hoping as time passes, my daughter will feel a renewed sense of security and will live the carefree life of a tween, without worrying about being abducted. For my own peace of mind, we’ve replaced my daughter’s phone and stipulated that she is no longer to go for strolls to the shops without being able to contact me or vice versa.
I think the hardest struggle as a parent is walking the fine line between allowing your kids freedom and keeping them safe. If I had my time over again, I would still tell my daughter about the incident, but would be vague on the specifics so she wouldn’t realise it happened out the front of our house. Thankfully the kids who were approached knew the right thing to do and didn’t get in the man’s car to receive lollies. We can only educate our kids on what to do in this situation and then hope that no strange person preys on our innocent kids.
Have you had the ‘stranger danger’ talk with your kids?
(Photo courtesy of stock images, freedigitalphotos.net)