Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Let's Talk (More) About Strangers

I never thought I'd be blogging about a Berenstain Bears book, but here goes.  This one is worth it.

In my earlier post, Father Etiquette, I posed the questionHow can we teach our children to be apprehensive of strangers, but not make every man out to be a pervert, or "bad guy?"  

Although I want my children to use extreme caution, I want to be careful not to scare my children mercilessly about the threats lurking everywhere.  Sometimes when topics are difficult, I find children's literature to be a perfect introduction.  

This Berenstain Bears Book (Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers) is well-written and addresses several issues (strangers, tattle-tales, family rules, private parts, and secrets).  When Sister Bear gets introduced to the idea that strangers can be dangerous, she begins to have nightmares.  The topic must be discussed in a way so as not to scare her, but to make it a serious reality.  This book nailed it for me.  You can check out some other parents' reviews too on Amazon.

A good line from the book:  "You can't always tell from the outside which are 'bad apples.'"  [A bumpy, strange-shaped apple was good on the inside, and a good-looking apple was wormy on the inside.]

The last page even posts the family rules for the cubs.  Yes, I know it's a fictional family, but it's very well-done.  I'm thrilled to have a forum to discuss this topic with my three-year olds in an age-appropriate way.


Misty said...

I think, too, that it really depends on your child. My youngest, she's almost 2, thinks every one else should drop dead if you are not her immediate family. She screams if you get near her if she doesn't know you VERY well. Hannah and Ian, 7 and 5, are VERY outgoing, VERY affectionate, assumes EVERY one loves them, wants to talk to them, play with them........ especially Hannah. Ian got the dialed down version of the "safety talk", Hannah ended up getting the extreme version, because after repeated attempts to teach her safe behavior, it didn't work..... I would take my eyes off her and she'd be chatting it up with some old man, a complete stranger, 1/2 way across the grocery store. We finally sat her down and had a serious discussion, that although not all adults are dangerous, you can never tell which one is. AND, the ones who ARE dangerous are likely to do awful things to her. I had to gage what truth I thought she could handle and gage how extreme our "chat" had to be. About that same time, a child in Salt Lake City went missing.... Destiny Norton. She was lured into her neighbors home, a 20something year old seemingly safe looking mans home, and killed with in MINUTES. He raped this poor child, and then stuffed her into a storage bin and tried to hide her in the cellar. By accident, and COMPLETE accident, Hannah saw this on the news while I was making dinner. In her eyes you could finally see that she got it. She had no nightmares, her behavior or personality didn't change, but she began to pay more close attention about how she behaved around people she didn't know.

Happy Days said...

Looks like a great book to get conversations going. I definately want my kids to be aware and street smart, but don't want them to be afraid of their own shadows.

just jamie said...

We will NEVER be able to let down our guard.

Misty, you're right. Each child is different and will need a different approach. It's our job to find the right one(s), and constantly keep the conversation going with our kiddos.

Amy said...

thanks for bringing attention to this subject. it's a very tough one, but one that can't be overlooked.

LaskiGal said...

I love the Berenstain Bears . . . I'm adding this one to my collection.

I think the apple analogy would work well with young children--it puts abstract ideas (good vs bad) into something tangible.

This is such an excellent topic--I'm glad it has continued. So, so important.

Misty said...

PS: Jamie, I meant to say, too, we'll be adding this book to our collection! Some thing to get the hard topic started. AND - - I'm impressed by the quick action taken and research you've done. You're an excellent Mother, I should be more on the ball. xo ~ M.

Kathryn said...

I am always wondering how to approach this subject with my boys too. They can be so sensitive. They think everyone is their best friend, and it is so sad to think of taking that away from them.
I'll have to check out this book. Thanks!

Lindsey said...

THANK you so much for blogging about this. My four year old and I tried to have a conversation about strangers recently. She doesn't meet a stranger...ever and that, my friend, worries me. I'm on my way to ordering this book.

I'm also adding you to my blog roll so I'll remember to read you:) Have a great weekend!