I have recently read a piece from "7 spiritual laws for parents" by Deepak Chopra that states the following for toddler age: allow & encourage by giving them unlimited freedom to explore the world around them and test out their independence. That will make them feel that the world is a safe place.
As much as I wish that blessed feeling for my son, sometimes I myself don't feel that way. Living in mid Canada has reduced my worries, yet I know that in many other areas of the world where we might eventually live safety, as I envision it for my child, is an unreliable metaphor. So how do we teach children to trust the World?
In my family we practice attachment parenting which means we respond to our son's needs immediately, we sleep together, we let him explore his surroundings with an age appropriate interest and rigor, carefully watching out for his safety: i.e. do not allow him entrance into the kitchen with dangerous steps or walking onto the road with cars, etc. Makes sense, doesn't it?
But as babies grow, the transparency of safety choices fades away leaving us in the face of new, more complex challenges, often unprepared...
Talking to strangers has been one of the things to chew on in my mind. I trust my son. Since birth he knew who was who for him and as he gradually expands his trust circle, at his 15 months he is always aware where mommy or daddy is, looks back to check in and hangs onto my skirt if he feels unready to continue the new communication. He doesn't seem to ever feel unsafe with people. As any baby, whose wisdom to me is obvious and stunning at times, he knows where and how safe is - naturally. Instinctively.
But what if a child's safety is threatened by something anti natural - not a big barking dog or sudden absence of mommy or a bomb explosion, but a threat that is hidden, in disguise?
Recent report in the Russian news: every 30 seconds a child goes missing. Every 6 hours a child goes missing which will never be found. As shocking as the numbers are... It gets worse. They performed an experiment: a man dressed in average casual clothes was approaching little kids on a playground talking them into following him outside the park. The children's caregivers were watching the scene on the screen from a distance.
It took the potential "kidnapper" roughly 30 seconds per child to have the child follow him, sometimes even holding his hand.
30 seconds that might cost a life.
We can teach our children (and many of us do) to never talk to strangers, not to go anywhere alone, etc. And by doing so we give them a mixed message - the world is (un)safe. I understand why these kids from the experiment followed the stranger. A child's innocence doesn't recognize evil in disguise. It sees only truth, transparent and lucid.
We all want to live in a safe world. But who of us really has? And if we don't have the experience of complete safety, if we as parents feel distrust towards other adults, how can we help our children navigate in the world where we can't trust ourselves and our communities?
A big one to chew on.
Keep your children safe.