Since my son turned old enough to play outside or walk to school, I have struggled with teaching him to be cautious and safe when dealing with strangers, while allowing him to still trust people and not be afraid. I remember him telling me once that all bad guys wore leather jackets and had long black hair, and I realized I hadn’t done my job very well! Since then, I worked harder to teach all of the kids about strangers and being safe….and that son has made it to adulthood without any major traumas, so I thought I did a good job.
Last week, my 8 year old son was out riding his bike with a friend. He had a walkie talkie with him, and I called him to come home for supper but he didn’t answer. I called again. No answer. I went outside and looked down the street where he should have been, and I didn’t see him anywhere. The Mommy panic started to set in, and I nearly yelled into the walkie talkie “Where are you?!”
To my surprise, a woman’s voice responded saying that Kellen had fallen off of his bike and that he was in their house getting patched up. She gave me her address and said she would have her son walk mine home once they were done. I was already halfway there. Kellen came out of the house unscathed, aside from his biking injuries, and I thanked the woman for patching him up…. then I gave Kellen a long talking to about going into a stranger’s house. His response…”I didn’t go into her house, she took me.” It left a sick feeling in my stomach. Kids are taught to respect adults and do as their told, and he was hurt and needed help, and someone helped him. It should be a good thing, yet it leaves me feeling so uneasy and fearful for what could have happened had a less kind person guided him into her home.
I thought I did all of the right things. He had a walkie talkie and could have called me to come and help him. He was with a friend who could have got me or his own mother who lived a couple of doors away from where he fell. He had options, and yet he went into the house of a stranger. We have had a few conversations about it since then, and his Grandma and Dad have talked to him, but I don’t know if it is enough.
How do you talk to your children about strangers? Do you think they “get” it?