Safety Dance

Do you remember slow dances? The three minutes and 42 seconds of sweating palms and stepping on toes, wondering, exactly, who was leading whom?

There are so many parenting moments that feel that same way. Do I step toward my child, tightening the boundary? Do I step away and give them more space? And possibly the one that makes our palms sweat the most is Safety.

Right now in the county where I live, a man has tried to lure three children, both boys and girls, in the past few weeks into his car, promising candy and asking for help finding his dog. The question for us isn’t about the (mythical) dog, it’s about finding our voice and helping our children. How do we do this?

Raise awareness. Tell your children the facts. A man has been asking children to get in his car. You can give them the specifics {white male, white sedan} but remember that he can change his vehicle and the color of his hair. So while the predator may change, a child’s intuition stays the same. Talk to your child about how their body sends them signals- a feeling of dread, a pit in their stomach. They are wise to listen, and then act. This is not the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. This is the story of the Child Who Was Aware. Even if the person they see isn’t ‘the guy’, tell them now that won’t matter. What matters is that they are safe. Encourage your child to take action, no matter what.What is action? Finding an adult to help them.

Raise voices. Ask your children what they think they would do if they were approached. Often they say I’ll kick him, punch him, bite him. Ever wrestle with your kiddos? Gently remind them how strong they know you are. Trying to physically out maneuver someone won’t work. How can your child be strong in that situation? By using their voices. Screaming “YOU ARE NOT MY DAD!” Will get attention from any adult in the vicinity. Even as adults we become flustered when someone strange approaches us. The same is true for our children. They quickly flood into flight, fight or freeze, which means they are not full of rational thought. So it’s important not to overload them with directions they won’t be able to recall in the moment. Keep it simple: Yell and Go.

Raise hands. Go with your child and knock on the doors of the neighbors you do not know. Introduce yourselves and your child. Create a chain of safe places for your child to go if they need help. If your child walks by businesses on their way to school, walk the path together and see which ones are open during school hours.

Raise community. This man has been prowling schools and bus stops. Work with other parents to create safety networks, ensuring kids are walking in groups and with adults during the transitions from home to school and back. Talk to shop owners and ask them to be additional eyes and ears.

Raise hope. Any time our children see us transform our worry into action, they learn how to respond in dire situations. When they see community built to create connection, they learn how to ask for aid and imagine change.

So dance with your child. Pull them in a little closer. Have them follow your lead. Teach them the steps. And if you have any questions, please keep me posted.


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