Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The "games" parents play

"It's time we all get hopping mad," Mike Stratka writes reacting to Jessica Lunsford’s abduction, sexual assault and murder, "but it's also time we do something about it, like take our own precautions to protect our children from the evils that lurk in this world.. . . . Do you teach your children regularly about how to behave in front of strangers?"

Stratka's rant then continued with things that are specific to the Lunsford case like locking doors and windows and installing alarm systems. He ticked me off, I'll admit. Like parents don't try to protect the children in their homes?

He's right, though, that we have to do more to teach our children because unless we plan on keeping them locked inside 24/7, they need to learn more about what to do (and what not to do) in different situations. Unfortunately, we as parents don't think along the same lines as those we want to protect our children from, and as adults, we don't think the same way children do.

Let me give you a specific example:

Stratka wrote, "Do you teach your children regularly about how to behave in front of strangers?"

Of course parents do, most anyway. Just as our parents taught us not to talk to strangers or take candy from a stranger, we teach our children.

If you have a young child ask them to tell you what a stranger is?

The answers just may horrify you because children -- younger ones, especially -- often don't know.

(The correct answer, by the way, is "Someone I don't know well.)

Why do I know that? Because when Da Kid was small mumble-something years ago, I bought a child-safety board game for him, for us to play. I can't even remember the name of it (Agent 911? Inspector 911? I've looked and can't find anything by that name.) but it had a "McGruff" look-a-like dog complete with trenchcoat BUT with a "Sam Spade" hat, question-and-answer cards, chips, a playing board . . . and a parents' guide.

The purpose of the game was to help parents educate their children while making it fun for them to learn, without scaring the crap out of them and making them hide under their beds for the rest of their lives . . . which is exactly where I really wanted Da Kid to remain for the rest of his childhood after I finished reading the parents' guide.

There were so many things Hubby and I hadn't thought of. Da Kid knew his telephone number but not the area code. He'd memorized his address, but didn't know what city or state he lived in. And we threw out every single item of clothing he had that had his name displayed on it.

There are now kits and programs with kits.There are new games out there like this one as an example. (And no, I'm not recommending it over any of the others out there, because I can't tell if any of them include the items on this list, a parents' guide with the explanations for each, or a method to translate each one to children.)

(After looking at the list, if you're wondering what the heck a "McGruff truck" is, the program is explained here.)

AND if you're wondering what Da Kid's answer was to me long ago when I asked him to tell me what a stranger was, he said it was someone who "looked dirty."

Please keep that in mind, parents, when you think your children understand what you've taught them about their safety.

Start with that list, and go from there.

UPDATE: Welcome to readers coming from Carnival of the Trackback IV.


Blogger Paula said...

These horrible abduction/murders that make the news get peeps all upset, which is understandable, but the biggest danger to kids is still the mundane: being in a moving vehicle. There are over 40,000 deaths a year in the U.S. (don't know the % of kids out of that).

7:41 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Anent Paula's comment, a 3-year-old girl was killed earlier this week in Augusta, when her mother lost control of her vehicle and crashed.

The child wasn't in a restraint system, and was thrown free during the wreck.

And it's not just strangers I worry about. [Carefully trying to avoid any identifying information here]- in a family I used to know well, the stepfather is now serving 20 years for molesting his stepdaughter. This wasn't the first time he had indulged in "inappropriate" behavior with younger female relatives, but it was the first time he did something really serious (molestation instead of, say, flashing) and it was the first time his victim told an authority figure (her mother) and it was the first time his victim was believed.

Being a parent is not a job for the faint-hearted.

10:19 AM  

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