Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Remember when you were young? Your mom or dad probably taught you not to talk to strangers, never to accept rides from a stranger, and certainly don't take candy from a stranger.
Seems logical right? If you teach your child not to fall prey to the clever tactics of strangers, then he or she will be less likely to find themselves a victim of molestation or kid napping.
But what if your child NEEDS to talk to a stranger?
I have slightly unorthodox approach when it comes to Tiny's safety. I very rarely use the word stranger and I never attach it to something negative like kidnapping or molestation.
Here is my worry – while certainly I do not want Tiny mixing and mingling with people she does not know when I am not close by, I also do not want her so fearful of people she does not know that she would potentially find herself in harm's way because she would not feel comfortable approaching someone she did not know.
Let's explore this further through my favorite game of “what if.”
What if…you are out walking with your young child when you trip and fall and break your leg. You need help immediately and realize you left your cell phone at home.
What if…you are at the park and suddenly pass out. You and your four year old had not yet made it to the playground which is in site but the trees are blocking anyone's view of you.
What if…you are at the grocery store and while you are busy reading labels, your three year old wanders off after a bright, shiny something or another?
You might be shaking your head and thinking that there is no way this will ever happen. But it could…especially the wandering child scenario. (OR possibly a wandering mother or father!)
If I instill the “stranger danger” philosophy in Tiny and something like this happens, there is a strong likelihood that she would be too scared to seek assistance for me or herself. She might possibly just sit next to me, waiting or if we were separated, she might decide to hide. If someone approached her to try to help, Tiny would probably freak out and maybe try to run which could put her in harm's way.
I prefer not to create a fear of strangers in Tiny. Instead, I strive to help her understand when it is appropriate to interact with someone she does not know and when there is cause for concern.
I have always run scenarios with Tiny, helping her to better understand who to approach for assistance and when. I also provide her with scenarios of inappropriate engagement from “strangers.”
One of the things I focus on, is the “chain of command” if you will. I tell Tiny that if she is lost, I am injured or asking her to get help, or if I am not responding to her (as in passed out) that she is to find a mother or grandmother who is with their child(ren). I have taught her to say “my mommy needs help and she told me to find another mama.” The next best person to seek assistance from is a father with children. I always emphasize the important of finding an adult who is obviously with children. It not only feels safer to me but I also am certain that a parent is more likely to respond to Tiny in a manner that will help calm her down since I am sure she will be pretty upset.
If a parent or grandparent with children is not an option, I have instructed her to find a woman, then a teenager, and finally a man. Nothing against men of course but the probability of there being an issue is simply higher, statistically speaking.
If something were to happen in a store, Tiny knows to seek assistance from a clerk at the check stand. That is pretty cut and dry.
Tiny also knows that is no one is around to ask for help, that she is to just stay next to me (if she is with me) until someone comes along.
I think it is also important to prepare our children for seeking assistance if something happens to their parent or caregiver at home. I have explained to Tiny which neighbors are usually home and who she should walk to try to get help. Many of these people are not people she knows. If I made her fear strangers, then she would not be confident enough to seek their assistance.
Tiny knows how to walk to my parents' house but it involves crossing two extremely busy streets, so we have reviewed that possibility and how to stay safe if she needed to go there and what to say/do if an adult approached her while she made her way to their house.
Now I realize, that teaching your child to call for help is the obvious answer to a lot of these scenarios, especially since cell phones are attached to everyone's hip! However, not every child knows how to use a phone or is old enough to understand. Tiny herself is starting to figure out the cell phone so the next step is to teach her how to call her daddy or my parents. Obviously, this is a good option. But there still needs to be a back-up plan if no one picks up the phone!
Recently, our preparation was put to the test when Tiny got lost at a very busy park. I had a feeling this might happen so I gave her instructions on where we should meet if we were separated. When this happened, Tiny went to our meeting spot but panicked when she did not immediately see me. She went looking for me, couldn't find me, panicked more, but did go up to another mother and although she was too upset to speak articulately, she made it clear what happened. That mama helped locate me (I was at our meeting spot, worried, but waiting, knowing I should just stay put for a few minutes).
Every parent approaches the issue of “strangers” differently but I do think it is important to explore the idea of not installing a fear of strangers in our children but instead, helping them to differentiate between people you can approach and when to do so.
What is your take on “stranger danger?” Do your children fear persons unknown or do they have a good sense of who to talk to and when?
Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)
- Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of “strangers” and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
- We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids' best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
- You Can't Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
- Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
- Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
- Water — sustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
- Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
- Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure Attatchment — Gentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
- Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
- Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it's not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
- Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she'll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
- Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
- Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child's safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
- Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
- Don't Touch That Baby! — Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
- Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
- Letting Go of “No” and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
- Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
- Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
- A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
- Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she's not around.
- Catchy Phrasing — Momma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
- Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
- Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to car seats completely!
- I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase “be careful!”