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overstated dangers and need help correcting

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Please help a mama out here.  DD is almost 5 years old.  I was away for the day and DH was working inside and told her she could play in the yard but she ended up wandering down our street (on the sidewalk) before someone asked her where she lived and where her parents were.  She came back and DH made it very clear to her that she's not to leave the yard (though she has known that before). When I heard about all this upon my return (and I'm exhausted already), I was thrown for a loop and went on with what I now see as a pretty terrifying lecture to her about WHY it's not ok for her to wander off (complete with the fear that someone would take her away, fear that someone isn't going to see her crossing their driveway and pull in and hit her, etc). My tone of voice was very calm but I totally blew it with the content--I just dumped all my fears out.  At bedtime she came out of her room, terrified about someone hurting her or us or taking her, and what would we do if that happened, the whole nine yards.  We reassured her the best we could that we live in a very safe neighborhood and talked about all our neighbors that we know and that her dad and I would watch out for her and that if she ever is worried about someone bothering her she can yell and/or run for help.  I apologized for scaring her and told her that most people in the world are kind and good, but I couldn't lie to her when she asked if there were people in the state that might hurt kids.   She got to sleep but I know I have to do some serious damage control tomorrow.  I don't want her to be terrified! I've read Free Range Kids and love the idea of having her feel confident in herself, and I totally undermined that today out of my own combination of exhaustion and fear.  How do I get back on to a reasonable footing here?  I want her to be safe and aware but not terrified. How do I dig out of the hole I blew up today?  HELP! 

post #2 of 9

I would probably just say something like Mommies sometimes worry about things more than they need to and that they worry about the people they love the most.

post #3 of 9
Have you read Protecting The Gift? That's a great book - also, by the same author, The Gift of Fear. There's overlap and Protecting The GIft is better for child issues I think.

It is important to give them the information they need to keep themselves safe, but at the same time not overstate it and make the world seem scarier than it is. There is only a miniscule chance they'll ever be abducted by a stranger, but a greater, though still small, chance they could be lured by a neighbor, and they need to be aware of that but hopefully feel empowered rather than like a future victim.

My litlte one is a bit small for this, but for the older one I think I talked to her about how most people are friendly and kind and would help children in any situation, but that there are adults who want to hurt children, and I was specific about how they want to hurt children - that they want to do sexual things to children and where they might want to touch children, and I used actual names for body parts. I think specific information makes children feel more empowered rather than afraid, like, "OK well if someone tries that I know to move on!" rather than some vague feeling that people are out wanting to do something or another but whatever it is it's horrible and lurking out there and could be anywhere. And we talked about how to handle things even, that how she used to drop to the ground and struggle against me when she had a tantrum would be a great way to handle it if someone tried to grab her. That she should never feel like she has to be quiet if she's afraid - scream away! That it's OK to break the rules and kick and bite or whatever if someone is trying to hurt you. That if she ever sees anyone with a gun, she should run away, even if they threaten to shoot her. That she should never get in a car with someone she doesnt' know no matter how much she has to scream and yet and kick and fight to stay out of it. How unlikely it is that she'd ever come across someone like that, and that if she did how unlikely it is they'd keep after her if she put up a fight and made a lot of noise. I also told her that if someone ever did want to do anything sexual to her, it would more likely be someone she knew and thought she trusted, and someone I thought I could trust, than a stranger, and that she should always tell me and never worry about how I'd react because I'd love her and take care of her no matter what happend. That if anyone said not to tell me something, that means they know I'd protect her, so she should especially tell me if someone says not to tell me. I'm all about giving tools. She isn't fearful with that information. I wonder if other kids would be? I guess I hope to hear from other parents here.

Oh, I also didn't do like one big talk. I don't think kids take in much information in one sitting, and that a lot of information at once is scary, so I tried to keep my eyes open for teachable moments and gave bits of information as it came up. It was never so much at once that it scared her. I think hearing everything at once would be scary.

I'm a big fan of Free Range Kids and I do let my older child have free range of our neighborhood. I actually get more nervous as she gets older than when she was younger, because very very few people are sexually attracted to prepubescent children, but lots of people are attracted to postpubescent young women. She's not there yet but she's closing in on that age. I'm about ready to have all new talks. greensad.gif
post #4 of 9

I am thinking that you didn't overstate anything, but perhaps it was a lot of information all at once.  HOWEVER, all the things you stated are things she needs to be aware of.  I am sorry, but I was a free range kid and a LOT of things happened to me that should never have happened.  It is not reasonable to expect to get through childhood without some negative experiences, in fact there is a lot that can be learned.  The focus should be on helping your child to recognize potentially harmful situations and how to handle them.  That will be very empowering.  Life is dangerous, can't change that and can't shield a child forever.  But you can give them the tools to cope and learn to be smart, and not just another victim.

I think it is a better idea to slowly give them more and more freedoms over time as they mature and as you teach them about the world.  I am really not for that free range idea.  Great in theory, but not so much in practice, IMHO. 

post #5 of 9

WIth my kids, I've tried to focus on the far more likely opportunities for getting in trouble - getting hit by a car, like you mentioned, falling and getting hurt and not being able to get back home, being chased or bit by a dog ( there are neighbours that keep their dogs off leash here).  We talk about how it's just politeness to let people know where you're going, so if they need you, want to go somewhere or do something with you etc.  They know where to find you.   I let them know that as long as they can show me that they are being responsible, they can have more freedom, but as soon as I see them doing risky things ( like running off without letting someone know where you are going) they will be reined in for a while.  With kidsnatchers and worse, I tend to downplay all that they might do and leave it mostly at "not all adults make good choices, and sometimes the choices they make might be to hurt you or try and trick you.  not all adults are trying to do what's best for you and keep you from getting hurt", and then teach them the kinds of behaviors that should send up red flags for them.   .

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

I appreciate the different replies.  DD seems to be a little better this morning but did tell her preschool teachers right away this morning that mama  scared her.  greensad.gif  Thankfully, she has excellent teachers and I think it's good for her to talk to them.  I told her this morning that we'd talk more about ways she can take care of herself so she doesn't have to feel so scared but it's going to take a little while for this to even out a bit, I think.  

post #7 of 9

I hope you don't beat yourself up about this mama.  Her behaviour was risky, impulsive and shortsighted - you were justifiably upset and scared yourself.  Your reaction migth not have been as even as you'd like, but ultimately the message that this was scary behaviour and cannot continue was a good one.  She'll get over being a little scared but she might not get over the things that could happen if she wanders off without your knowledge.

post #8 of 9

I think you can level with her and tell her the truth. You don't want her to be afraid of EVERYONE. You just want her to make sure her parents know where she is. 


It's kind of like bike helmets. (I was just explaining this to my 9-year-old.) When people didn't wear bike helmets, most people didn't fall off their bikes and get a head injury. But that can sometimes, very occasionally, happen, so we wear the helmets, because the risk of a head injury is so bad that we figure there's a benefit to wearing a helmet all the time, since it's pretty easy. The same thing is true with her safety. Most people in the world won't harm her, she mostly won't get lost, she mostly isn't at risk for being hit by a car. But it would be crazy for you not to insist that you know where she is, since that's a very easy thing we can do to protect ourselves. 



My kid, at her age, would have understood the idea of evening out--of having only enough fear to be safe and not so much that you're scared to do fun things. A tiny drop of caution, not drowning in it. 




Originally Posted by puffingirl View Post

I appreciate the different replies.  DD seems to be a little better this morning but did tell her preschool teachers right away this morning that mama  scared her.  greensad.gif  Thankfully, she has excellent teachers and I think it's good for her to talk to them.  I told her this morning that we'd talk more about ways she can take care of herself so she doesn't have to feel so scared but it's going to take a little while for this to even out a bit, I think.  

post #9 of 9
I agree with those who say that you did not overstate things. Yes, you scared her, but a legitimate scare now and then as an outgrowth of real experiences is part of learning to exist in the world. She has to learn to cope with fear as much as she needs to learn about the legitimate dangers in the world. I think at this point, I wouldn't bring it up again, except in response to her initiation of the topic. And then I would talk about how feeling scared doesn't feel good, but that it can sometimes help protect us. I might use strange dogs or wild animals as an example of how being afraid sends the right messages to our brain about what we should do to protect ourselves.

She will recover. Don't beat yourself up.
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