street-smarts and your pre-teen? - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-09-2009, 09:15 PM - Thread Starter
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my eldest is almost 9 and while I do think our culture overly-protects our kids, I also think there are some worthwhile things to consider before extending their freedom.

what do you teach your kids about 'strangers', about safety of their bodies, their spirit? My kids are homeschooled, and thus rarely away from me. I know they need to move on to public washrooms alone, the pool changeroom, DS (almost 9) wants to do his local paper route solo. I am intellectualy in favour of giving them these freedoms, of allowing them to take charge and to feel the pride of maturing, of handling such tasks. Yet I was molested, bullied, you name it, in my free, normal 70's childhood. And I didn't deal with it well, never told, never got help.

how do you inform your child without scaring them?

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Old 09-09-2009, 10:40 PM
 
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I think that a lot of these skills are acquired slowly, through practice.

My boys have been using public restrooms alone since around age 5-6. All of the pools we've used don't allow boys over the age of 5 in the women's lockerroom. So my boys have been using public facilities alone for several years. When they first started we had a few conversations about bathroom manners (this was mostly covered by my DH), as well as chats about safety. When my boys were first using the restrooms alone I'd often stand near the entrance and a few times I cracked the door open and yelled for them if I thought they were taking a long time.

In general, I try to keep a very open and supportive relationship with my children. We talk A LOT. We haven't just had one big safety talk. We have many small, ongoing conversations on many different subjects. I don't teach my kids to be scared of the world, but we do talk about using common sense and following your gut feelings.

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Old 09-09-2009, 11:53 PM
 
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Over the years, we've had the following conversations (with children, currently ages 8, 10, 10 & 12). Again, we've had these conversations (and incarnartions of these conversations) over the course of many years, not all at once in one big talk:

*It's okay to talk to strangers. It's never okay to go with strangers or take anything from strangers. (We roll played a couple of "Hey Sophia! Your mom is in the hospital and I'm going to bring her to you" type scenarios.)

*Never park next to a large, windowless van.

*Call if it's getting dark.

*Re bullies: bullies usually have bigger problems than you - that's why they're bullies. We talk about empathy and not taking things personally and talking to a grown-up when things get out of hand.

*There are certain parts of your body that are private. It's always okay to tell Mom or Dad if someone makes you feel uncomfortable about your private parts, even if they told you not to tell.

*Your freedom is a privilege. Don't abuse it or you'll lose it.

*Smoking is freakin' stupid. Don't do it. Not ever. Otherwise you'll be in the biggest trouble of your life.

*Most people in the world are okay. Engage people, learn from people. Just not in the bathroom and not in the public pool locker room.

*Drugs are for morons. Don't do them. Not ever. Otherwise you'll be in the biggest trouble of your life.

*Honesty is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS the best policy. Better to be a little punished for doing something stupid than to be enormously punished for lying about doing something stupid. I am Mother and I am all-knowing. Nothing gets by me.

*We love you and nothing makes us happier than knowing that you're out in the world making your own way. That's how you learn and grow and build self-esteem.

*Always stand up for your sisters or brothers. Always. Family first. You never side with the jerk. You always side with family.

*We trust you. A LOT. We have faith that you will make smart, safe decisions about your freedom. We also trust that if you have questions, you will ask us.

I'm sure there are tons more, but those are the highlights. You need to find small windows of opportunity to engage your kids in these kinds of talks. In my experience, sitting down for a Big Important Chat can be mildly counter-productive. My two favorite places to have these little exchanges are in the car and over dinner.

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Old 09-10-2009, 12:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Exactly! I so agree that a BIG CHAT is useless. I guess I'm realising that, while we talk openly about everything, dangers to them (bulies, pedophiles, confrontation) has never come up. Seriously. So now suddenly I'm thinking Whoa! I've raised awesome little dudes who have no interest in not being with me (fine) and thus have little sense of how to deal when things do come up, which they will. We are no longer allowed as a family in our women's changeroom (logical), and we cannot stay so tightly joined at the hip forever.

I really appreciate the posts. It feels like DS is ready/old enough to handle venturing out, but he's totally unaware of what to notice nor what to do. so suddenly I feel like I have no choice but to force the ssue, cause he's ready to walk out the door.

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Old 09-10-2009, 07:55 AM
 
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I think kids with a secure attachment who are allowed freedoms at appropriate times (and when they start wanting them) will have pretty healthy instincts. My older dd has not really pushed her independence much at all, but last year she started walking home from school by herself about once a week (4th grade, the walk is pretty safe traffic-wise but is about 25 minutes). The walks home also involved a bit of giggly wandering around and candy purchasing with 2 or 3 other girlfriends; I didn't comment much on that as long as she was home in a reasonable period of time. She always was, so it remained a non-issue. (I wanted her to know I trusted her.)

The city and neighborhood we live in are generally low-crime and very safe, so I haven't made a big deal about strangers (although we've had some general talks), so I was caught off guard when during the last few weeks of school last year she came home all out of breath one day, saying that a creepy guy had followed her. She described him and his behavior, and also told me about her excellent evasive manoeuvers (crossing the street twice and noting that he did, too, and then running like crazy once she was around a corner to shake him from her trail, which worked). I took her seriously and we agreed that she would have parental companionship to come home from school for the rest of the year.

Well, by a couple of weeks later there had been a whole series of stalking episodes, always by the same guy, always 4th grade girls from our school. The parents got together and provided our girls' testimonies to the police, who figured out who the perpetrator was (a mentally handicapped young man who had recently been released from 24-hour supervision). He is now under full-time supervision again and all the girls are more wary than before, but generally it wasn't as scary as it sounds because everything worked the way it was supposed to in order to protect the kids. (We also have a new security guard at the school this year.)

Anyway, my point with this story is that my dd had very good instincts and acted appropriately, despite not having been subjected to fearmongering or nightly news reports about abductions, etc. She also seems to have a good idea of who can be trusted and who can't without my making that explicit. (We have talked about finding a mom or parents with kids if you are alone in a public place and feel threatened.) So at least in her case, I think her street smarts developing well without a lot of overt coaching.

What is more difficult is helping them deal with peers who want to lead them astray. Still working on that angle.

DD1 (Oct 99), DD2 (Sep 02), DD3 (Oct 09)
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Old 09-13-2009, 09:25 AM
 
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I homeschool my children as well and I agree that it's something you talk about with them over time, as circumstances arise. My oldest is 14 and is more independent as time goes on.

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