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Overprotected children lack street wisdom

Last week, a mom wrote to ask how to warn preschoolers of very real dangers in the world around them without making them anxious. "Sometimes I feel like I'm giving my three-year-old too much information," she said.

Last week, a mom wrote to ask how to warn preschoolers of very real dangers in the world around them without making them anxious.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm giving my three-year-old too much information," she said. "For example, I tell her that she shouldn't poke things, including her fingers, in the electrical outlet because she could die, and now she's fixated on death.

And how do you warn kids

not to get into strangers' cars without explaining what could happen?"

When you are the parent of a three-year-old, your job is to supervise and keep your environment safe. A three-year-old is not on her own in public; you are protecting her.

As she matures, you can talk to her about street safety and other matters.

You can look at the socket and say "No" if she tries to stick something in it. Show her with your body language how serious it is.

It is important to teach children about the dangers of the world without creating anxiety in them.

Responsibility is given to children slowly and some important skills can be learned along the way: for example, walk with a group if you are off the beaten path. Don't go with somebody you don't know, including woman and children.

Run, scream and know that your karate skills and cellphone won't help you.

Always tell somebody and trust your instincts if you are uncomfortable.

The truth is that it's people your child knows that you should be most concerned about. Most child abductions are by the noncustodial parent. Neighbours, daycare providers or family members are more likely to abuse your child.

The answer to safety is to give a child enough freedom to develop her confidence and intuition.

Healthy self-esteem is more likely to protect a child because she will pay attention to her instincts and uncomfortable feelings.

Children who are overprotected don't develop street wisdom. They are fearful and much more likely to appear to be an easy target.

Find some balance, let go slowly as your child matures. Teach skills and show some faith. The world isn't quite as dangerous as television would have us believe.

Allison Rees Parent Educator LIFE Seminars

It's important that parents take responsibility for their children's safety without scaring them unduly.

Preschool children cannot process the concept of death and need to be protected from this worry until they are older. It is the ultimate separation and much too difficult to understand.

Sometimes, a child will have a pet die and then ask the parent whether she will die also.

Until they are older, a great answer is to sidestep the actual question, saying, "I will always be your mother," which is technically true, since you will always be her mother - dead or alive. Contemplating the death of a parent is simply too much for a small child to bear.

With regards to safety, you need to be very careful when you explain your fears for your child's safety to her.

As soon as we have children, we are aware of the thousands of things out in the world that can harm a child, and these feelings last well into your children's adulthood. No matter what happens to my grown children, my instinct is to try to keep them safe.

It's far better to be a proactive parent, especially as little ones become mobile. Safety gates, childproof latches on drawers, toilets, as well as electrical outlet covers will make your home safer for children and calmer for you.

Children are naturally curious and as parents, we must take responsibility for supervising them care-fully to keep them out of harm's way. A toddler has no understanding of harmful consequences and death. Speaking to her about possible dangers will not likely increase the chances of her staying away from things she should not touch, but as y5ou have noticed, it will certainly raise her anxiety level. If there is something that you want her to stay away from, like an electrical outlet, let her know that if she touches it, it will be a "big owie."

The same goes for geting into strangers' cars.

Scaring your child so that she becomes fixated on death will not help. It is important to note that the highest percentage of child abductions comes from someone known to the family, so instilling this fear in her may not be the wisest choice.

A good tactic with younger children is to teach them that secrets should never be kept. If anyone tells you to keep a secret, that is not right and you must tell Mummy or Daddy.

You can explain the difference between secrets and surprises and help them understand that surprises are always things that make you feel good and everything else is a secret and must be told.

You do not need to give examples of bad secrets at this stage. Later on, when your children are a bit older and can understand the concept of personal space and that their body is their own, you will want to start having conversations about good touch and bad touch.

Safety is a time for you to come alongside your daughter and let her know that there are some things she must not do.

You need to tell her that your job is to keep her safe and that in these instances, you know best and you will be there for her.

Jean Bigelow Parent Educator

NEXT QUESTION:

We have a six year old son with an "I can't" attitude. If he attempts to do any activity and can't master it immediately, he gives up and says "I can't." It can be anything from riding a bike and doing monkey bars to writing and reading. He clearly does not like to fail. We have explained to him that you can't master something on the first attempt and give him examples of things he has had to practice in order to be successful at it. But he still shakes his head and gives up immediately. What can we do to encourage him and help him develop an "I can" attitude? We have resorted to a rewards system but I am not entirely comfortable with that.

Do you have any advice for this parent? Do you have a parenting dilemma? Send your input to features@timescolonist.com. Please put "the parent rap" in the subject line. Questions about infants to teens welcome.