10/22/05 Something Wicked This Way Comes
Fear. Some say you can smell it. You can almost always see it registered on the faces of those whom experience it. Most will not be able to hide it, especially from the children, those sensitive and observant little beings.
Something else to be feared has already arrived some time ago. It is not a fear without basis, but it is a fear that may have been taken to an unwarranted level.
The approaching storm is a fearful thing, which will effect anyone and everything in its path. It is fueled by interactions between sea and sky, none of which can be controlled. The fearful thing which already exists is fueled by humans, numbers, and our interpretation of those numbers.
So many of us live in fear for our children because of the existence of sexual and other predators. Some say they won't let their children play outside because something might happen to them. Some will tell them "a bad man might take you" or even "you might get kidnapped".
The truth is, that in an average year, only a small percentage of non-family abductions occur. Out of the approximately 4,200, only 300 are strangers to the child. Out of the 850,000 new missing persons cases per year, many are resolved, leaving approximately 100,000 active cases on an ongoing basis.
While these numbers are still cause for concern, and certainly not to be ignored, I wonder about the cumulative effects of the fear of child predators on today's children.
Will they still be allowed to be children? How do we, as parents, balance our fears with providing a healthy life's outlook for our offspring? How do we instill a cautionary common sense in them without them seeing danger in every face and around every corner?
"Stranger Danger" used to be the catchphrase of the day and what we taught our children, but we have since learned the fallacy of that methodology. Situations and improper actions of others, including neighbors, relatives, and any other adult who may be in contact with our children, is now what must be taught in a matter of fact way. Children should also know the basic safety rules, which include the buddy system. This NCMEC brochure explains this concept.
In the same matter of fact way, we must gather the necessary information for a Personal ID Kit, which can be downloaded free at http://www.projectjason.org/Education.html#idkit . Fingerprints and DNA need only be obtained once. Dental records can be updated when visiting the dentist, and photos can be kept current by parents without involving the child.
I like the way that child psychologist John Rosemond thinks. While I have not yet asked him, I am sure he would agree with me that we should not tell our children that the reason we need to prepare a kit for them is because they might be kidnapped. I believe we can simply state that the kit is done for the child's safety. We can mention that there are many people who leave home every year and who are then endangered. There are also many people whom we do not know what has happened to them, but we'll always keep looking for them.
The information in the kit is used in case a loved one becomes missing. Physical data and the photo aids in location and identification data is used to identify a body. (The latter need not be explained to younger children in my opinion.)
Adults: Don't forget this kit is for you, too. No one is immune to becoming a missing person.
Parents, feel free to comment on how you teach your child about these issues. Either place a comment on the blog, or send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you draw the line between protecting your children, and letting them be children?