As parents, we dread moments where our children’s ability to stay safe is tested. A few months ago, while I was eight months pregnant, I was in the kitchen making dinner while my husband and three daughters played outside on our driveway. When our youngest daughter had to go to the bathroom, my husband came in to help her. That left our two older daughters playing by themselves. Not five minutes later, my eight year old came in the house and said, “Dad, your friends are outside and want to talk to you.”
Call it mother’s intuition, but I knew immediately that whoever it was, wasn’t actually friends of ours. My husband ran outside to see who it was and to check on our five year old who was still outside. Turns out, the “friends” were a couple walking through our neighborhood telling people about an event that they were hosting in the community. That’s it. Nothing bad happened.
Maybe it was my pregnancy hormones, but I was shaken up by all of the “what ifs” that ran through my mind for the rest of the afternoon. What if they weren’t just a nice couple? What if they were looking to hurt someone? What if they were driving a vehicle and not walking? What if they had tried to take one of our daughters? What if my husband had not been home? What if….
My kids were ok but it was also a close call. I knew that our whole family needed a reminder on how to stay safe.
We had a conversation that evening over dinner about everything we had always taught them about how to stay safe. That unsafe situations can be tricky. That they don’t always involve “scary” people. Sometimes seemingly nice people can do very bad things. And, in fact, sometimes unsafe situations involve people that you know. It’s not just about having stranger danger. We also talked about not leaving anyone behind and always sticking together. Asking a parent before going anywhere with anyone, especially another adult. Never going with an adult who says they need help from children. And running away and being loud if you are threatened or if there is an emergency.
It is one of the most fearful parts of being a parent. Trusting that your children will remember what you have taught them and that what you have taught them is going to help them stay safe.
This little situation gave me a fright, but I am also thankful that it made me have another conversation with my daughters about the importance of staying safe. I’m glad that it gave real context to our conversation, a real life scenario turned into a teachable moment without any of the negative outcomes. It is a conversation that I plan on revisiting often with my kids to make sure that they have the tools to stay safe.