Hi, friends! Today I’m sharing this month’s edition of Seeking Advice which I just know is going to quickly become my favorite post on this here blog. This month’s topic is one of those things no one really wants to talk about because it’s awkward and it also kind of seems like common sense, but when you delve deeper it’s more complicated than that. So let’s get to it!
As parents, there are so many questions we may have and for the most part, fodr each question, there are a million different answers. So where do you start? How do you determine what is the “right” answer? For me, the answer is research and ask around – which is what this new series is going to be for.
About once a month, I ask a question to all of you about an aspect of parenting that is all shades of gray. I’ll ask the question(s), give my own opinion on the matter, and then leave it to all of you lovely people. My hope is that the comments section of this post will fill up with helpful, supportive comments that reflect a number of different points of view. After a week has passed, I will then compile the most helpful comments into one post called, “Advice Found: [insert topic here]”. If you are a blogger, I will include a link back to your blog so that if someone really identifies with your view on something, they can hop over and learn more about you. If you have written a post on the topic in the past, feel free to leave it with your comment – I may link it up! This post will go up on a Sunday, so the Advice Found for this post will go live on May 29. I hope for this series to become a resource for myself and others trying to navigate parenting and life and a place where we can all be honest, open, and accepting.
I also want to note – if you do not have children, THAT IS FINE! You undoubtedly have an opinion on the topic – someone raised you, and they did XYZ while doing it. What’s your opinion on it? How did you parents handle it? How do you expect others’ children to behave in regards to the topic?
That being said, any negative, rude, or hurtful comments will be deleted without notice. I want everyone to feel comfortable expressing views and opinions without feeling judged or criticized. So let’s get to it!
This month’s topic is STRANGER DANGER!
I feel like stranger danger is one of those things I never thought about until I was older and had a kid of my own. But it’s pretty terrifying if you think about it. This world can truly be a scary place – the news is littered with stories about children being harmed or worse, and at least once a week my phone blares off an Amber Alert. When you become a parent, the idea of something like that happening to your child puts a rock the size of a minivan into the pit of your stomach. It’s the kind of thought that keeps you up all night if you let it.
The seemingly obvious answer is to tell our children not to talk to strangers – the same advice we received as children. And it’s sound advice – strangers are not people who have earned our trust yet, so they are the most likely to cause us harm. But what happens when our Stranger Danger fears start to encompass our children’s lives, stopping them from growing?
So here’s my question: Is teaching kids to fear strangers more harm than good?
(source.) ^ I had to.
Funny story: when I was a kid, maybe 6? my parents lost both me and my brother (who is a year younger) on the Wildwood boardwalk on a weekend summer night (so it was packed). I refused to talk to anyone but a police officer, and eventually was reunited with my parents who then had to look for my brother, who they had lost while looking for me. (can you imagine!?!) He came galavanting up, sitting on some total stranger’s shoulders. So clearly, we had different ideas of what was acceptable in regards to strangers.
In that situation, if my brother had been “afraid” of strangers, would he have gotten himself into more trouble? Would it have taken longer to find him?
I guess what I’m asking is are we teaching our children to be afraid of everyone and everything? By teaching them to avoid all strangers and are we discouraging the use of their gut and intuition to make conscious decisions about who is safe and who is a danger to them? Is it possible that “stranger danger” is making it worse?
I once read an article about refraining from telling our kids not to talk to strangers and instead telling them to stay away from “tricky people” which I thought was genius. (this isn’t the article, but a very interesting breakdown of the topic and “tricky people” as well as how to teach it to kids. )Basically, the article says that “tricky people” do things like asking a kid for a favor or help, trying to get you into their car to see something, or asking you to lie to your parents – and not telling your parents something is still a lie! The article went on to remind us that an adult will never ask a child for help, they are being “tricky”. I really loved making this distinction to kids who might not understand “good” stranger versus “bad” stranger.
To be honest, I don’t have much to add to this since my kids are so little. I will say that my dad was very paranoid about something happening to us when I was little and we were NOT to talk to strangers. We had a family code word if something happened and a new person had to pick us up (it was pumpkin, if you’re wondering. I think I’m in the clear sharing that with ‘strangers’ now.) and there was a general air of ick and fear around strangers. (Note: I do not hold this against my parents. As a parent myself, thinking about even the slightest chance of something crazy happening to your kids will put the fear of God in you.) To this day, I do not like to talk to strangers. I hate calling places, I hate having to ask for help, I hate small talk with people I don’t know. It makes me feel so uncomfortable and I have to wonder if that is why. And then I’m forced to wonder if this (potential) knowledge should effect how I teach my boys about strangers. I’m at such a loss, which is why I’m so excited to hear from all of you!
So here are this month’s questions to start you off: Do you teach or will you teach your kids the “classic” warning of stranger danger? How were you taught to handle strangers? Do you think that constantly warning kids about strangers is doing more harm than good?
I want to know your thoughts and advice on the topic! Be sure to leave it in the comments or send me an email at [email protected]!!