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June 30, 2011

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Ginny Kinne

I did my counseling internship at an elementary school this year, and although the video is VERY VERY antiquated, it seemed to resonate with kids. It's the "What Tadoo" series. Here is the website that has a snipbit of the video. Just the bit that is online is very good stuff. They also talk about creating a "CODE WORD" with your child. If the stranger comes to pick you up and says that your parents are hurt, they should know the code word. Really good stuff. Let me know if you'd like more resources.

http://www.empowerkids.com/html/whattadoo.htm

Regan Dulin

You've done the right thing in keeping it simple. The fear you shared with him will be enough for a while longer until he is older and better able to understand some of the not so simple things. It is an ideal time to teach him what to do if a stranger he did not engage tries to take him with him away from you. Instead of crying help, he needs to yell Fire! or some other thing that will draw peoples' attention. People ignore cries for help unfortunately. I never knew a stranger as a child either. I was very curious. Kids tend to have a good radar as to 'good' and 'bad' people, generally speaking. It may be a time when you discuss people you see with him, not in attempt to be judgmental of others, but share with him if you see a person that makes you uncomfortable for instance, and ask him what he thinks, and conversely, share why you felt it ok to talk to certain strangers on the bus, etc. Another thing, have a password for the family, that way if you ever do have a 'stranger' pick up Max they can share the password. If the person doesn't have the password, they are not a 'safe' person. Ours is an inside joke that only JC and I and our boys know. We don't share it with anyone, haven't had the need yet. If you can get on the boyscouts of america website, the bobcat badge has a very well written stranger story in it that all boys entering in 1st grade must read with their parents before starting scouts, so that early on the boys know what to do if they are not comfortable. Max is old enough for the concepts they include. I'm sorry this event happened, I know the feeling of not seeing your children among so many people. This is something as a doctor I have been part of teaching kiddos, and married to a police officer, it is part of our everyday conversations sometimes, using things in the media such as kidnappings and such to preface our discussions, since it is fresh in all of our minds. Take care!

Laine

Be careful because we had a BIG BIG scare and now Jacob will not leave my side because he said he doesn't want anyone to take him or take me. He sits outside the shower door when I shower. If he can not see me even in the house, he is frantic. I can no longer pee with the door closed. It's a mess. Good luck and keep it simple.

Mary Anne

honestly and simplicity are the best way to go...and it is more than geography...it is the times. I am so cautious with our kids, the BIGS cannot even ride their bikes off our block, and they are 9 and 11 now...you just never know who lives where and what not. Gone are the days of when your mom would let you sleep over with a friend from school...we don't, not unless we know the family well...I just don't allow it. Just keep it simple, and I love the code word concept. There is a stranger danger book that is great, by the Bernsteins(Bernstien Bears). I will see if I can find it for you...it talks about strangers and being careful, but also reminds kids that all strangers are not bad...I used it at school during safety week every year and LOVED it for 4 year olds. Hugs honey...welcome to the next stage of motherhood. :)
Love,
Mary Anne

The Bold Soul

This seems like such a balancing act for parents. On the one hand, you don't want your child terrified of the whole world, but on the other hand there's a certain reality that must be dealt with. I think you handled it fine under the circumstances and what else could you have done at the moment. Listen, my mother knew someone who's child was kidnapped at Disney in Orlando (someone body slammed her and her 4-yr-old daughter was pulled right out of her hand). The mom immediately told security, they sealed off the park within 10 minutes. Several hours later, security found the girl with a couple who'd taken her. They had cut and dyed her hair and changed all her clothing except her SHOES, and the mom had done a great job of giving a description of everything she was wearing. The security folks found her because of the shoes, can you believe that? I still can't get over that this sort of thing happened at the happiest place on earth but it just shows that the bad guys are out there, and THAT is why children have to be taught over time (and in age appropriate stages) to be aware of themselves, other people and their surroundings. At 4, Max won't be so aware, so your "I have to see you" rule is really a good one. He'll just need constant reminding for a while, but it will sink in more and more as he gets older.

I'm also in favor of finding ways to empower children to stand up for themselves, especially if a stranger is touching them (you know what I mean), frightening them or if they feel uncomfortable in any way around someone (whether they know them or not). They can say no, they can scream and kick and yell and tell someone and all sorts of things. But often kids don't realize they're "allowed" to do those things if their instincts are telling them something is wrong or if they are scared. So maybe that can somehow be part of a conversation at some point, too. We don't want our kids to feel like helpless victims because that's when people feel afraid.

The Bold Soul

Also meant to add that whenever I take Georges' 9-yr-old to the park, I am constantly getting up and looking around to make sure I know where he is. At 9 I can't really do the "I have to see you at all times" thing but I make sure to check on him frequently, especially when he's running around with his friends playing hide-and-seek. There are, unfortunately, teenagers and adults who sit on the benches with their beer in the afternoons, and although I see a lot of parents who seem to just let their kids run around without supervision, I'm not willing to be one of them because I don't trust those "strange" strangers either.

Pauline

Unfortunately this type of fear never really goes away.

My son is now 13 and far more independent than Max is at the moment. He is also bigger, stronger and can run faster but this doesn’t mean horrible things can’t happen. He goes to and from school on his own and out and about with his friends, so I’m probably more worried now than when he was little when he was always with his Mum, Dad grandparents etc or at school.

For god’s sake they just found the leg of the boy in Pau who went missing in June, can you imagine that. He was 13 too and a 17 year old who’s body was found in a hole burned !

So I’m really into scare tactics, I let him know that yes the worse can and does happen and not to trust anyone, even the neighbours can be a pervert. To always be careful, very careful. I let him watch the news with all the horrible things that happen and hope that the message gets through, because teenager tends to think they are invincible!

Account Deleted

Hi, I just want to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog. Even though I'm not married nor live in France (not even in Europe), I find your writing about life in general resonates with me a lot. Hope that your family continues to be as happy as it already is.

Meg

I have been dreading this talk with Thaya, but I know I have to have it with her soon. We're going to Disney in October, and she is old enough now that she can really understand. She will go up to ANYONE and smile and start a conversation, and I know it is because she sees that I am friendly to people when we are out. I'm going to check out the one resource that another commenter posted. I actually remember seeing a similar video when I was in elementary school - we even had a code word!! I think it was "purple bananas" or something lol. Let me know if you find any other resources, I'll keep an eye out too!

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