It seems like today there are so many dangers in the world. When I hear about kidnappings, creepy clowns, assaults and murders, it makes me want to keep my kids inside and never let them out. But I know that is just a little bit unrealistic. Allowing my children to experience life is part of my role as a parent.
So how do we, as parents, keep them safe while still letting them go out into the world? Here are some ideas.
While we can't always trust the people they will encounter, we can trust our children. Teaching them stranger danger when they are young and continuing to preach about discernment as they grow can assure us that we've taught them about making good choices. Now it is up to them to use that information.
Look at their past behavior and decide how much of the reins you will let them take. If you feel they are still learning who is a stranger and who is a trusted friend, keep the reins a bit closer until they can handle themselves appropriately.
You don't have to hover, but you don't have to leave altogether. Stay a safe distance away. Let them roam over the entire playground without standing right next to your child. Watch how they act with other kids and other adults without you standing by their side. That way, you will see what your kid needs to learn or what they already know when it comes to social interactions. Standing back also allows you to keep a look out for suspicious people or other dangers.
If they want to go over to a friend's house from school that you've never met, take the time to get out of the car, meet their parents, see their house and judge if you will leave them there, or stay and chat with their parents while the kids play. It is okay to be cautious. If the parents of the friend think you are weird for checking them out, they probably have something to hide.
A great way to get your kids out in the world without too many risks is by putting them in a controlled environment. Sports, clubs and summer camps are all wonderful ways to let your kids have a bit of freedom, but still remain safe. You can rest easy knowing they are having fun, meeting kids their age and expanding their independence. It gives your kids a chance to come home and tell you all about what they learned. If you are still worried about the activity, maybe observe from a distance for a while, but once you are assured it is safe, leave them be.
While there is a lot of bad out in the world, there is also a lot of good. The last thing you want to do is give your fears to your children. If they grow up only knowing that people can't be trusted, they will never learn to trust others. Take them to activities where they can see how good people can be. Volunteer at a food bank, join an organization that helps the environment and always tell them stories about real people and the good they do in the world. Let your children grow up knowing that the world is mostly good.
Be an example to your kids. Show them that goodness starts from home. Be kind. Smile at strangers. Don't yell at other drivers. Take your kids with you when you do service for someone else. Congratulate others on their success and cheer them on. Be who you want your kids to grow into. Your example of what a good, honest person is the best way to teach them how to be that same way.
People who do not have children often ask me how I feel about bringing kids into the world today when there is so much bad. I often respond that while it is scary, and I do fear for them, I can't help but have hope that the future will be good. That we can grow past the negative and learn to love others in spite of their flaws. I hope my teachings will stick with them. I do everything I can to make sure they are in a safe environment, without limiting their growth, imagination and development. I know I can hold my children close for a few short years, but eventually I have to let go and watch them soar.