Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stranger Danger - Aptly Explained

Know what one of the hardest things about parenting a young - outgoing! - child is? At least for me - it's getting her to understand about Stranger Danger. The old definition of "anyone who you don't know" just doesn't quite work in our day and age. At least not completely. It's all quite frustrating.

So when I came across this article (click on that link, then scroll down to the 5th article - Who's a Stranger?) while waiting at my doctor's office today, I was pretty dang excited.

Bill Marquis, Program Director for Lil' Iguana Children's Safety Foundation, lays it out straight, defining a stranger as, simply, anyone you don't have permission to go with - whether you know that person or not. I'm paraphrasing here, but he goes on to say that it doesn't even matter if it's grandpa or the neighbor lady (whom you say hi to and casually chat with almost every day) - if anyone asks your child to go somewhere with them, your child MUST get your permission to go. Every. Single. Time.

Marquis even goes so far as to define "permission", saying that your child must look you straight in the eyes while asking, so she knows she has your full attention. And then she must wait for the answer. None of this sticking-her-head-in-the-door-and-yelling-that-she's-going-to-so-and-so's-house, and-then-she's-gone stuff. Uh-uh. Full-on, interactive understanding and communication between the parent and child is key. This way, everyone - including the the person your child will now be with - is completely aware that you as the parent know exactly where, and with whom, your child is going to be for the next little while.

I really loved this article and fully intend to have a family discussion at dinnertime tonight about what all three of us needs to know about strangers, responsibility, and accountability. We all need to be on the same page to not only keep Sweetie as safe as possible, but also help Hubby and I stay in agreement about what is expected from our growing little girl.

Unfortunately, the world is not as safe as it once was. Even the seemingly kindly elderly neighbor lady or the "responsible" school teacher your child has come to love can easily end up causing harm to a child they've made to gain their trust. Because of these all-too-frequently-documented unfortunate circumstances, Stranger Danger a very tricky concept to ingrain into our childrens' heads. We want them to be safe and take all sorts of (possibly) extreme precautions. But at the same time, we don't want to altogether squash our kids' innocent, youthful ideals.

Marquis has done a fantastic job of simply summing up what every child needs to know about strangers in an easy way for parents to explain and kids to understand. Bravo! Job well done. I - and I imagine many other parents - are extremely grateful for your well written article. 

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