PARENTING IN AN AGE OF PARANOIA | HOW DO WE KEEP OUR KIDS SAFE?


I don’t know a single mom who hasn’t been consumed and terrified by the news lately. From the heartbreaking story of little Courtney Petersen’s death to the countless other stories about children taken and murdered at the hands of monsters.  And then we saw that video, the one of the man attempting to steal a child from the play area at a Spur restaurant. That video sent us over the edge because it’s SO close to home. Who hasn’t taken their little ones to Spur and enjoyed a plate of calamari while they played in the play area? While there is always a little nugget of paranoia lurking somewhere in our minds, we never thought child abductors would be frequenting our trusted family restaurants. Or did we?

PARENTING + PARANOIA 
The world we live in demands that parenting and paranoia go hand in hand. We lambaste our little ones for waving at strangers or daring to explore their surroundings. We don’t allow them to play unsupervised outside. Trips to the park start with a stern talking to about wandering off. We grill them about their teachers, their friend’s parents, and their activities, desperately hoping we haven’t missed a sign of foul play. When we read stories about things going wrong, we quickly shout: “BUT WHERE WERE THE PARENTS?!”

CAN THEY STILL HAVE A FUN CHILDHOOD? 
Our parenting DNA has been permanently altered to suit the sick society we find ourselves in, but are we going about this the right way? We already live in self-imposed prisons; does our approach to parenting mean that we are also building psychological prisons for our children and ourselves? What can we do to ensure that we are giving our kids the very best childhood without significantly compromising their safety?

SO WHAT DO WE DO? 
Here are some of the things we are putting into action with Sophie. Our main goal is to ensure that we’re ticking all the boxes without raising her to be a cynical child who’s frightened of the world she lives in:

GPS WATCHES AND TRACKING DEVICES 
Sophie is only 4 so saying that she does not really look after things is a fair statement. The decision to get her a GPS tracking watch was a weighty one because they are not cheap, and the chances of her losing it are quite high. But given the odds, I would happily write off R1000 if it meant I had peace-of-mind when it came to my child’s whereabouts. (Read this story about how Sharon from The Blessed Baroness had the scare of her life when she couldn’t find her daughter) If you’re considering getting a GPS watch for your child, look for one that has all of the following features:
Call function 
Alert when watch is taken off 
Safe zones 
Alert when your child leaves a safe zone 
Heart rate alert – you need to know if your child is afraid. 

SOCIAL MEDIA 
Consider what you allow and what you share. Thankfully Sophie is completely unaware of social media. But as she gets older, I know it is going to come up.
My rules around social media:  
Absolutely no Instagram 
Absolutely no Facebook 
Absolutely no Twitter
Whatsapp will be allowed
This could be revised when they’re in high school but it would depend on strict monitoring. Phones will need to be handed over every evening for a complete check of all content that has been consumed and shared.
My rules for sharing images of my kids online: 
Absolutely no nudity. 
Absolutely no images containing identifying information, specifically locations
Absolutely no pictures of other children unless we have their parents permission. 

STRANGER DANGER 
A while ago I posted a little note on our Facebook page about the dangers of preaching “stranger danger” and why we’re not doing it anymore. The truth is, there may come a day when your child needs the help of a stranger. I would hate for that to happen only for my child to feel too afraid to ask for the help they need. So instead of talking about “stranger danger” we’re talking about “tricky grown ups” – adults with bad intentions. How are we doing this? Two ways:
1. No adult will ever ask for a child’s help. If an adult approaches asking you to help them with anything, scream. Adults help children, not the other way around. Did someone lose their puppy and needs help looking for it? Did someone misplace their bag and asks if you can help them? Sound the alarm. They are trying to trick you.
2. Adults you don’t know shouldn’t do nice things for you. Never accept gifts or sweets or anything, no matter how nice, from an adult you don’t know. They are trying to trick you.

SLEEPOVERS
Sleepovers happen at our parent’s homes and my sister’s home. Nowhere else. No exceptions. It’s not up for discussion.

INTRODUCING THE CONCEPT OF CONSENT
When I was little we used to say this poem: my body’s my body, no one’s but mine. You have your body and this is mine. I think the intention of this was to gently introduce the concept of consent. My biggest problem with this is that consent is not a gentle issue and we do not live in gentle times. The issue of consent needs to be aggressively addressed and thoroughly enforced. This is how we are doing this with our 4 year old:
Always ask permission before giving someone (except mommy and daddy) a hug or a kiss. 
No and stop are very important words and should always be listened to and honored. 
Absolutely no forcing to hug and kiss anyone. 
It’s ok if you don’t feel like being touched, saying no is not rude. 

OUR MOVING SAFE ZONE
We are teaching Sophie that the safest place she can be is by our side. When we’re out, she needs to be able to see and hear us at all times, if she can’t see us or is too far away to hear us clearly, then she’s in danger. If she’s out without either of us, something that seldom happens, she needs to apply this thinking to the grown up she is out with.

TRUSTING HER INSTINCTS
This one is a work in progress. Children are very in touch with their feelings, but often struggle to articulate them. We are teaching Sophie that she should always listen to the little voice in her tummy that tells her when something is weird or scary or just not right. We were out recently and Sophie met a friend of a friend and this man was the first man that Sophie has ever strongly disliked. My first instinct was to be a little embarrassed because she was openly weary of him, and then I quickly came to my senses and asked him to please keep his distance because he is making her uncomfortable and as the adults we need to respect this. The worst thing we can do for our children is to ignore the instincts and not support their feelings.

WHEN IT’S OK TO BE RUDE
Growing up, my sisters and I were groomed to be polite. Rudeness was not tolerated and speaking your mind was only encouraged if you had nice things to say. Now that I have children of my own, I am taking a different route.
It’s ok to be rude in the following situations: 
When you’ve said no or stop and no one is listening to you. 
When you are receiving unwanted attention. 
When someone tries to touch you without your permission. 
When an adult you don’t know tries to talk to you. 
When someone is abusive towards you. 

As parents we naturally ruminate over every worst case scenario our minds throw our way, but there is a fine line between living safely and living in a self-imposed prison built with your own anxiety and fear. We owe it to our families to educate ourselves about threats and parent responsibly. At the end of the day, our number one goal is, and will always be, to raise happy, strong children who feel safe and secure (not fearful and paranoid).

What are some of the ways you maintain security and safety for your family?

Nikki
Xxx

Nikki Lincoln

Thanks for reading my little blog! I'm Nikki, writer, mom, passionate foodie and bookworm. In addition to my blog, I also craft creative and engaging content for various FMCG brands and a few events companies.

On my blog you'll find parenting tales, tips and advice, occasionally a recipe or two, products reviews and once in a while even a giveaway. If you'd like to say hi or find out more about working with me or my writing services please pop me a mail: nikki.lincoln@gmail.com

2 comments:

  1. Love your post. It's so difficult explaining the concept of stranger danger to a child that is innately polite and considerate. We have to reinforce what is ok what is not ok ALL the time with Dudie. We live in scary times...

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    1. It's so terrifying. I think it's a constant conversation we need to have with them. Thanks so much for taking the time to read ❤️❤️

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