We’re at this weird age with Dex that he is old enough to stretch his wings a bit, but he’s still pretty vulnerable. Mostly because, even though we live in an urban part of Denver, his life has been fairly sheltered and protected. Although, given what happened to Jessica Ridgeway last summer, and too many cases like hers, we know that nowhere is quote-unquote safe.
We have never been fans of the “stranger danger” approach to child safety. Really early on I read Gaven DeBecker’s book “Protecting The Gift” and it gave concrete tips.
That’s what I like. Concrete ideas – rather than just saying, “Don’t talk to strangers.”
One of the biggest things I learned from Gavin’s book was to teach Dex to looks for parents with kids if he ever gets lost somewhere. Technically Gavin says moms, but we always said parents. The point being, your child choosing someone to help them, someone who is wrangling their own kids, is very likely to weed out any possible predators.
And while I can’t say for sure Dex avoided any danger, he did use that tip a few years ago at the mall when he lost us. I was so relieved as another mom brought him back to me right when I was rushing up the shoe aisle to start a frantic search.
Another resource that has been invaluable is Adam Walsh’s Stranger Safety video. The version we have has a silly “Safety Girl” that introduces everything… but by reading the description, the content is the same.
The thing we have drilled into Dex’s head that there are only two people who can pick him up by saying “your mom or dad sent me.” Even if it happens to be someone he knows, he can’t leave with anyone else but us, or those two other emergency contacts.
This came into play last week when our plans got shuffled, and neither of us could get to school to pick him up. A friend, who Dex knows very well, was gracious enough to agree to go get him. A friend who *is* on our list of approved pickups at the school.
But, I knew that this safety thing goes both ways. Just as I had expected him to find a parent in the mall, it was also MY responsibility to call him and let him know what is happening. I couldn’t get him at first, so I called and called back, because it is important.
He had a blast that night, with his friend, but he also told me he appreciated the call.