“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
Last week, I walked through my door from a busy day at work. Like most days, as soon as I stepped through the door my two kids planted themselves, like a wall, before me. I couldn’t pass without that magic password of attention. My son was squirming in excitement, so pumped to tell me he sunk a three point shot from half court, at recess, while my daughter simultaneously held up a cupcake shouting, “Mom, this man gave us Ding-Dongs today!”
Puzzled, I glanced at her, “What man?” I asked. “Someone from school?”
“No, on our way home,” my daughter happily proclaimed. I looked at my nanny and she smiled, but my gut took on an icky feeling. My instinct was to pelt her with questions, transitioning into the “stranger danger” talk once again, but I ignored it. I thought rushing to the grocery story, preparing for their Irish twin birthday extravaganza weekend, was more important.
On my way back from the grocery story I received a concerned call from my husband, “Hey, do you know anything about a man giving our kids Ding-Dongs today? Sadie ate it. What’s going on?”
“SHIT!” I thought. Here it was. I was angry with myself for not addressing the situation earlier; I could’ve saved my daughter from eating the “invisibly poisonous” object.
I promptly began my investigation, calling my nanny and speaking with both of my children regarding this man and delving into the danger of strangers, again. While strangers can sometimes be the kindest of people, they can also be those of nightmares, lurking in the shadows of sexual abuse and other things that are a parent’s worst fear.
To this day I’m still horrified that this mysterious man had been able to insert himself in my family’s life so subtly. To some it may seem innocent, a friendly neighbor offering kids a sweet treat, with nanny in plain sight. Of course nothing strange is going on here. However, fast-forward a few years. The Ding-Dong man offers a sweet treat, once again, but this time he suggest my children come inside, out of the heat. Why wouldn’t they go in? They’ve seen their nanny talk to this man, that she “thought” she knew, everyday on the way home. Her body language and kindness towards this person instilled an invisible “yes” pattern to my children. It killed any sort of caution they may have, instead giving them a false sense of comfort until their stranger danger radar goes off.
Being cautious is just another form of preventative medicine. In protecting our children and family we’re preventing a situation from unfolding so we don’t have to deal with the aftermath of an assault—unwinding trauma from our children and personally living in anxiety and torment for our carelessness or misfortune.
That evening as I sat down with my children and again laid down the guidelines for, essentially, never talking to any stranger EVER, I realized that this form of violence leads directly to my work, energetically that is. I want to educate people on this invisible pattern of “yes” that we’re fed since birth and the mixed signals it could potentially give our children. It can be as simple as watching our children accept a sucker from a cashier or letting a stranger tickle them in our presence when our parental inner spirit is on high alert, finding something just a little off.
We need to keep our children centered and aware, teaching them that humanity is both a beautiful and a terrible thing.
Be preventative and be cautious of people. I hear too many stories of boundary violations. Pay attention and use your gut instinct. It’s almost always the person you would never dream of doing such a horrible act. Don’t fall for it.
– Teach your children the importance of STOP and respect it yourself.
– Differentiate between secrets and surprises.
– Ask your children if they feel safe, during and after a social event.
– Let your children know that they’re not obligated to hug or kiss anyone, whether family or friends, if they don’t want to.
* Found from Parent.co10