YES, YOU CAN PLAY…but avoid strangers, high climbing structures and anyone with a lost pet. June 06 2013, 1 Comment

Being safe while riding a bike!I’m one of those parents who has fantasized about implanting a micro-chip in my son.  His independence and identity would be compromised but so what – my irrational fear trumps his needs. Each child kidnapping story escalates this chip implanting lunacy until I’m sick with worry about what-ifs.  Recently – 3 men attempted to kidnap a 13 year old girl on a bike not far from our house in Minneapolis – thankfully the girl got away but that gut-wrenching horror consumed me. The reality of child kidnappings. Rationally, I know these fears are unfounded – statistics prove that it’s far more likely to get struck by lightning than to be kidnapped.  In fact – it’s way more dangerous to be texting stopped at a traffic light (with my son in the backseat) about who’s going to make the pit-stop at Trader Joes before dinner.  It’s wrong and irresponsible  - and I plead the 5th amendment on that one. The Bubble-Wrap Solution.  The reality is that this fear of “stranger danger” is causing us parents to keep our kids indoors –unintentional or not.   And if we do go outside to play – we hover and shout “be careful, stay close to mommy” or whatever controlling safety phrase we deem appropriate. Ironically enough, coddling our kids only leads to them to be more worried and timid and less-equipped to handle a rare stranger situation when  it does arise. So, how do you manage the worry?  I recently was forced to deal with this head-on when I had this fear while camping with my family.  Someone could stealthily tiptoe into the tent  and steal my blissfully snoring 3 year old!  With that thought running through my head, and a large amount of shivering due to the cold, I just couldn’t sleep.  Here are some strategies I’ve learned to manage irrational worry:
  • Play out the worst case scenario so you fully realize how silly this is – e.g. who would this phantom person be that is coming into the tent (a James Bond super villain)?  How does he even know that a sleeping child is in the tent (track-able micro-chips)?
  • Have confidence that everything will be all right – have TRUST in the inherent goodness of people.
Teaching Safety Tips! I was also surprised to learn from child development experts that it’s smart to teach your child basic safety tips as a toddler – I always thought shielding them from such conversations was best at this young age. Banish the word “Stranger.” We often preach - don’t talk to strangers – but this term is unclear to our young ones as to who fits (and doesn’t fit) into this category.  Instead, try saying things like:
  • Only get in a car with mommy or daddy
  • If someone asks you do something, ask your teacher or a police-officer or fireman if it’s OK.
  • Finally, kids have good instincts.  It’s OK to teach them if something doesn’t feel right – to say NO and tell a trusted adult.
Lesson learned for me is do not let fear hold you back from letting your family enjoy the outdoors!  Think about your favorite memories as a kid – skipping stones, playing pick-up baseball, jumping in puddles – whatever it is – ENJOY it now and let your kids play more freely (even just a tiny bit)!