WARNING: this content deals with the subject of harm and potential harm to children – while not graphic, I just wanted you to be aware.
I worry constantly about my 4yr old twins. They’re like small, cute, friendly, chattering squirrels.
And no matter how much I role-play and drill them about “stranger danger” or even potential danger from someone they might know, they still cozy up to every stranger we meet.
This is why I generally don’t let them out of my sight outside of school hours, and the list of people I trust their little lives and safety to is a Very. Short. List. And even then, I make sure it’s for as short a time as possible.
And I’m sure you’ve read the recent news reports: a politician molests the sleeping slumber-party guests of his elementary-school age daughter, a Texas father having to repeatedly put the smack-down on the filth molesting his 4-yr-old daugher to rescue her when the piece of garbage just won’t stop – resulting in the creep’s death,
the recent Dateline report that showed that even a police officer’s own child was susceptible to the blandishments of child-luring.
We try and try, and tell them over and over again. We practice scenarios, we role-play, we repeat ad nauseum.
But do I have any faith that that would be enough in the face of someone pretending to be nice and offering candy to my kids in the hopes of luring them off?
Because no matter how well you prepare them, they are still very young, and anything resembling impulse control is practically non-existant.
Let me make this very clear: Small children primarily act on their Lizard Brain instinct.
Desire pops up and they’ve gone chasing it faster than you can say ‘Don’t get into cars with strangers offering candy!’ or ‘Don’t go into the street after a ball!’
You cannot depend that if it ever (God forbid!) comes down to crunch time, that your little sweetie will have the emotional and mental wherewithal to remember the lessons you’ve drilled into their head, let alone the gumption to stand up to whatever emotional pressure some creep is putting on your child to get them to go along with whatever horrible crap they’ve thought up.
I’m sorry to be so negative about this, to rain on your parade, but let me tell you a little (true) story:
Waaaay back when, Little Lara (me), age 6, gets out of school for the day. Her friend – let’s call her ‘Sophie’ – says “I’ve got a great idea! How about you come home with me today and we’ll play at my house!”
Little Lara thinks this is nifty and follows Sophie home (this was in the dinosaur days when little kids walked to and from school even at such young ages – but it could just as easily have been Lara’s own backyard the kids wandered away from).
After a couple of hours playing, Sophie’s mom sticks her head out, tells Sophie it’s time to come in and that her little friend has to go home.
So off wanders Little Lara obediently, with no idea how to actually get home, and compounding this problem – she’s very navigationally challenged on a good day! (I still am, actually!)
By this time, Little Lara’s mom has gone beyond insane with worry, and has notified the police and gotten the neighborhood somewhat organized into search parties.
They eventually find the child in an abandoned construction site – luckily alive and unmolested.
Little Lara did not stop and think that her mom should be notified BEFORE she goes home with her friend. She did not think of mentioning to Sophie’s mom that A) she did not have her mom’s permission to be there, and B) she had no idea of how to get home, and C) It never occured to Sophie’s mom that the small child her daughter was playing with WASN’T from their neighborhood and didn’t have permission to be there.
Everyone just sorta ‘went with the flow’. You can’t assume that other ‘responsible’ adults around will catch things that ‘slip thru the cracks’.
Kids just don’t think. And not all situations are cut-and-dried, with some obviously sinister stranger practically advertising his/her intentions, menacing your child.
These days perpetrators – whether strangers or someone known to the child – work to make an environment that the child feels comfortable with and lulls the child into complacency.
Here’s another true story:
Little Lara (my, she had an exciting childhood!) age 4, gets on the schoolbus after Pre-K. The bus takes off, but doesn’t actually stop to let any kids off. Instead, Ernie the bus driver goes off on a joyride with about 10 small children riding shotgun.
He even stops to buy them all candy, which they happily eat – never thinking that it might be poisoned (relax, it wasn’t – luckily!), not questioning that they weren’t being taken home. Nope, they were all singing “The Wheels On The Bus” and otherwise having a very fun time with their new buddy Ernie.
And when, at last after several hours, he returns the bus to the school – and gets taken away by the police – every one of those children were quite bewildered at their parents’ hysterics. (It turned out that Ernie had been mentally ill and later committed homicide.)
Point is: a situation that may give any right-minded parent the heebie-jeebies from hell, may seem to be ‘situation normal’ to a small child – no matter how informed that child may have been by conscientious parents!
So please don’t take it for granted that your child’s safety awareness under controlled circumstances may translate to the same level under (God forbid!) actual field conditions.