Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Safe as Houses

So I’m thinking of moving my family into a bomb shelter and throwing away the keys.

Honestly, it’s just getting so scary out there. First a 12 year old boy is stabbed in his schoolyard, then a little girl in Sydney is snatched from her home, horribly abused and left for dead. Then a little girl in Bundaberg is abducted and killed by a family friend. All in the last couple of weeks.

It’s a scary enough prospect keeping our children safe out there in the big wide world, but when we drop them off at school, we expect them to survive the day. When we tuck them into bed, we believe they are safe. Our homes are our sanctuary, our safe harbour in this sometimes rough sea of life, and it is a horrifying thought that this may not be so. I know of Mums who are now having their children sleep with them, just so they can be reassured that they are safe. I myself have a dog who sleeps inside, and has always been encouraged, not scolded, for barking or bringing to our attention people approaching the house. Now he is also encouraged to sleep near GG’s room. Luckily he is naturally very protective of GG, and loves being allowed to be near her. I also may or may not have re-connected GG’s baby monitor, just so I can hear what’s going on.

I have always had a tendency to worry, let my vivid imagination take off and concoct disastrous scenarios. I usually am able to shrug this off and even laugh at myself for my drama, but these recent tragedies play right into my strongest sense – maternal. There is nothing more precious to me than my child, and nothing more terrifying than the thought of her being hurt, or put in danger. It is our job to not only nurture and shape them, but protect them.

What’s scarier is trying to explain to our children why this is so. GG is only two, so I have kept her shielded from most of this, but even now, when we are out and about we have a talk that runs along the lines of, “You must stay with Mummy, so I know where you are and can keep you safe.” Safe from what is still fairly ambiguous. We have also started talking about Stranger Danger, but I sometimes struggle to find the right approach.

What about you, how much do you tell your children about the dangers in the world, and how do you say it to them?



  1. Firstly, I can feel your concern! My oldest is 24 and he is still living with us, so believe me, I cannot fall asleep at night until I hear him coming home. When he had his motorbike I was worried sick each time he left house...
    With Maya...she is 3.8 yo and very friendly and open, something I don't always like. I tried a few times to explain to her that is not right to talk with strangers, and she kept asking, looking at me wtih with huge, candid blue eyes:"But why, mama, why?". I'll keep explaining, though, because the truth is, we live in a jungle and I want her to have all the means to protect herself. Very seriously, I am thinking to enroll her in some self defense classes, when she'll be a bit older, because you are never too protected out there...
    I know it is not very nice to burst their bubbles and tell them them that the world in no fairy tale, but better to be safe than sorry...

  2. Ok - at the risk of losing even more followers than I already have....I'm going to present the other side.

    Our job is to protect our children, there is no doubt. We also have an obligation to prepare them to be well adjusted, productive members of society. I don't think anyone would argue either of those things.

    I guess I question if we go too far. Are we doing harm to our kids by raising them in a bubble? The fact is some parents instill such a fear in their children at an early age they are unable to cope in an adult world. It's not done intentionally; no loving parent would ever want to see their child struggle as an adult. But it does happen.

    The world is a scary place, but it's also a beautiful place, filled with loving people. I think we need to work really hard to find that fine line between teaching our children to be safe, and causing them to be afraid of the monsters under the bed.

  3. There is an amazing book for parents called "Protecting The Gift", written by the US's leading expert in executive protection, Gavin DeBecker. It's well worth the money; he's got real-life ways to keep your kids safe while walking the fine line Dual Mom talks about. After reading his book (I've actually read all of them), I relaxed a lot and am a lot less fearful for my children. That's saying a lot, since my children and I were stalked for over two years - just try letting go of that fear.

    Really, I encourage you to look up the book or head on over to Amazon and buy it; it will make you feel so much better.

  4. I have issues with this too; I suffer from anxiety and OCD anyway, so then my psycho brain comes up with all these wild scenarios that could probably never happen in real life and I freak out. It's a struggle, but I'm trying to find a balance between constant hyper vigilance freak out time and "free range" parenting - both of which I think are nuts. I think I'll check out that book GunDiva mentioned...

  5. I have to agree with Dual Mom. I was coming on to write something similar.
    As a child I was crippled with fear. Fear of being kidnapped, something terrible happening to my family, being blown up by a nuclear bomb (hey, it was the 80s and we were still all scared of the Russians), Nostradamus predictions - you name it, I worried about. Somewhere by my late teens the fear vanished, but I still remember the feeling, so much so I could almost touch it.
    It would kill me if my kids developed the same fear. I feel like I lost a big part of my childhood because I spent so much time worrying and fretting. I am also married to a catastrosphiser so I have to be very aware of finding the right balance of concern/worry/fear.

    I keep my kids safe to the best of my ability and leave it there. I take a deep breath and think 'the odds are in my favour' and I have learnt not to worry about what I can't control, it is of no good to anyone, least of all my kids.

  6. I agree, what has been going on is horrifying. If I hear another newsbreak use the word killed followed by little girl when in earshot of my Big Miss I'll cry. And that is only the radio, the TV is permanently off because of this. She hasn't asked yet, but I am waiting. How to explain such atrocities? How to arm them with some, a little bit of information that may help them in a time of danger without putting the fear of God into them as other commentors have mentioned? It's tough, and while I tend to agree that raising them in a bubble may be destructive, at the same time the world has changed. Whilst there was always a danger in walking to school alone when I was a kid, it is much, much worse now. Predators no longer able to approach kids alone on the street actually go INTO schools looking for victims like one did last week and another one did last year in my very own suburb. Homes and schools may not be the sanctuaries we want them to be, all we can do is maintain a vigilance of watching out for our kids when at home and teaching them to always be with another child at school - safety in numbers. That is what saved the little girls in our suburb.

    These recent tragedies are too awful to comprehend and I can see easily how parents react by closing ranks around their children. My instinct is to do that too.

  7. Great post Quixy. You know what, I don't watch the news anymore. Some might say that makes me ignorant. I don't think so. (of course unavoidably I see on the net, or newspaper what is happening, so I do know what you speak of) I am aware that bad goes on in the world and it sends chills down my spine as much as you. This is due as much as the facts of what is happening as in the scare tactics the media use to sell media. It is like makeup companies keeping us feeling ugly so that we will buy, the media keeps us scared so that we will watch. It puts us in a bloody permanent anxious state and it sucks.
    Like you, I also am prone to becoming absolutely worried and maternal. But as many good things happen in the world aswell - they just don't make the news. While terrible, terrible stuff happens, thankfully it is not so often as the news makes it out to be. I would rather like Corinne, think the odds are in my favour and raise Monte to always look on the bright side of life (whistle, whistle) somehow be aware that bad can happen and to be wary... Hmmm I don't know Quixy it is a great point you raise, somehow I want to find a balance when raising Monte... sorry for the waffle. Great post, certainly has me thinking

  8. I feel very overwhelmed at the procspect of commenting on this topic. I appreciate the comments of other readers and will be checking back....

    I know you aren't alone in you fear....
    and I know I don't have an answer.

  9. I was going to post something similar myself Quixy! I think it's a ridiculously hard line to tread - the line between being protective and instilling a sense of carefulness in our little people whilst not making them scared. I agree with @Sharnanigans...I've tuned out of most of the news to make it easier. This is one area where I'd rather be blissfully ignorant I think.

  10. Most of the time I avoid the news. Of course they aren't going to report all the great, wonderful, magnificent stuff in the world. That doesn't sell. When it seems that all you hear about is bad stuff, you think that's all there is. We just have to keep in our minds that the bad stuff is still in the minority. Not to say we shouldn't protect our children as we should, it's what we're there for. But we have to try and keep it all in perspective.

  11. Gavin DeBecker says that NEWS stands for Nothing Ever Worth Seeing - their job is to prey on our fears and sensationalize everything out there. Instead of saying one child was beaten and abused, wouldn't it feel much better if they said (truthfully) hundreds of thousands children made it home safely to their loving parents?

    I can't say enough about the book "Protecting the Gift", which is the parents' handbook to "The Gift of Fear". If I could buy one for each of you, I so would, because I believe in his message wholeheartedly.


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