Stranger Danger

The Next Family

By: Kacie Bernstein

I’ll admit it; I am a worrier and probably inherited it from my parents, even though my mom tries to deny it all the time!  It started once I had kids and has only gotten worse over the past two years.  In the beginning I would worry about them not sleeping enough, if they were eating enough and…well, just about everything.

My worries escalate every day, but an email that circulated in our area a few weeks ago brought a whole new worry to the table.  There was an alleged kidnapping of two elementary school boys at a local park.  A man, accompanied by a 12-year-old boy, was said to have approached them and asked if they wanted to see his sleeping dog. The boys said no and safely ran to their parents.  After investigation, the police concluded that the boys had made the story up, but that didn’t stop me from making myself sick over it.  I couldn’t fall asleep that night thinking about that helpless boy, and all the terrified and lost children present and past.

Even though this story ended well, this is happening every day all over the country.  As a mom of twins I am very reluctant to take my kids alone to the park, a mall, or even around the block without the stroller.    The park incident made me think about “Stranger Danger” and when is the appropriate time to discuss this with your children.  Mine are obviously too young to understand this and the last thing I want to do is scare them, but how do we convey the message to a toddler that not everyone is their friend?  How do we define a stranger when we see them every day and teach our children to be polite and smile and say hello.  How do we explain that the person we said hi to at Trader Joe’s is actually a stranger and not one of mommy’s friends?  I guess this question, and many others, will lead to a few more sleepless nights!

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