Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Kids Are What Matter Most

I'm still reeling this morning over the senseless death of an 8 year old girl in our community this past weekend. She was abducted by a man who befriended the family in a store, who preyed on this family's misfortune, and offered them food and clothing because he purportedly overheard the mother tell the girl she couldn't afford something.

I can not make sense of this on so many levels. This hurts me.

Blame-gaming, finger pointing and Monday-morning-quarterbacking aside, here are some of the things we talked to our children about this weekend, and things we have taught our students, because times like this remind us to have the difficult conversations with our children about strangers and safety.

  1. It is OK to not be polite to strangers who offer you treats, presents, pets, or rides. You are allowed to yell no and walk away. Yes, we have taught you to be respectful and polite to adults. But any stranger offering you something is probably up to no good. Get away.
  2. NEVER go anywhere with a stranger.
  3. FIGHT BACK. Kick, scream, bite, yell, scratch, punch. Whatever it takes. YOU ARE WORTH DEFENDING. Don't let anyone take you anywhere.
  4. We love you. We think you are worth protecting. You have to believe you are worth defending.
  5. If anyone offers you ice cream or treats say NO. Then tell me. I WILL BUY IT FOR YOU. You don't need treats from strangers. If someone offers to let you pet his/her dog, you come get me and we'll go together to pet the dog. I like dogs too.
  6. If you can not find me go find a policeman, a fireman, a teacher, a store worker or a mother with kids (or someone like these examples). Tell them you are worried that a stranger is bothering you and you need help. (make sure your kids know your phone number.)
  7. There are mostly good people in this world. But there are a lot of bad people too who sometimes do really, really bad things to children. We, as your parents, set our rules and limits and boundaries so that we can protect you. There are going to be a lot of times when you do not like the rules and you think we are horribly unfair. I'm sorry but this is just how it is going to be because we have to keep you safe and we love you. We do not want anyone to take you or hurt you. Ever.
This is by no means the "right" list or the "only" list of things to talk to your kids about with strangers. Just talk to them. If you have trouble bringing it up, or need help, or want more information, search the web for "Talking to my kids about strangers." Maybe start with Polly Klass's website. You're a parent. Do your homework. Your kids, our kids, all kids, are our hearts, our everything. I hope that no harm every comes to them. But I will not rely on foolish ignorance and statistical improbabilities as a sort of "hope shield" of protection for the people I love the most.

Our seven year old was pretty freaked out this weekend, with good cause. We did our best to allay his fears and still make him feel safe and loved. And I am pretty sure I will lose much more sleep worrying then he ever will. Well, maybe until he has his own children to worry about some day too.