There was a Madeleine McCann story on the Today Show when my kids were eating breakfast before school. I did my best to talk over it but the eight year old, who is increasingly aware of the news, caught on and started asking questions. At first, I tried to dodge the questions because my kids can sometimes be overly worried. Then I realized, there are some things better handled with full disclosure.
I didn’t go into graphic details about what might have happened to Madeleine but I did tell the truth that sometimes bad people want to harm kids. I told them they’d never have to worry about Madeleine’s specific case. While I don’t judge her parents for their actions, you can be sure her story means I’ll never leave my kids’ unattended in a hotel room. I could not totally guarantee their safety in every other scenario though so instead we talked about prevention.
We started with staying away from people they don’t know even if the person says I sent them. We talked about how they should yell and scream if someone does try to take them from a public space. We talked about when you’re in crowds, staying close to mom and dad.
I did my best to be honest and provide some good information without scaring the pants off of them. It was a good discussion prompted by our morning show. It may not have been comfortable for me, or even them, but I think they got something of it that makes them feel prepared and protected. I know that they know some of the ways to keep themselves safe and it all came from talking about a news report that I wanted to hide.
I learned something I already knew this morning- sometimes keeping your kids in the dark isn’t protecting them at all.
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