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Kids and Strangers: My Son, the Easy Target

A combination of taste buds, tactile pleasures and the direction of the wind form the basis of my just-turned five-year-old boy’s decision-making criteria. No matter how many times I tell him otherwise, he remains an immature and gullible target for any practical joke---or any predator.

Scary thought.

However, the truth is that I love his innocence and innate sense of goodness, seeing all strangers as potential friends worth trusting. I’ve witnessed the hearts of the grumpiest people melt once exposed to his larger-than-life smile and bright, almond-shaped eyes. His aura oozes with love and kindness.

So, my question is: how do I teach this sweet boy that the world is not as it seems? That unfortunately, bad people exist. And that even amongst those he knows and within the “safe places” he spends his time, somebody may want to trick him, or worse yet, hurt him.

And because he's pioneering new terrain in pre-kindergarten, I feel pressure to convey this message. Now.

Upon communicating my urgency to a dear friend, she loaned me a DVD called The Safe Side: Stranger Safety, Hot Tips for Cool Kids. It features a super-hero gal that moves the young viewer from scenario to scenario, demonstrating how to act and react “safely” in various situations. As a family, we’ve watched it together many times.

I know my boy doesn’t lack comprehension skills because after he watches any movie, show or listens to any story, his recall is almost 100% accurate. Yet somehow, with this topic, when I initiate the post-program Q & A session, it’s as though he has not captured the point. At all.

His relentlessly-stubborn, trusting personality refuses to surrender to (the watered-down-kid-version of) today’s world’s harsh realities. He lacks judgment, common sense and hasn’t a mean bone in his little body.

Making this kid aware of danger, fearful of strangers, and explaining the subsequent “whys” of it all is not only virtually impossible, it has me torn. How could I rob him of his innocence, of his sense of wonder, his good inclinations, and his right to see the good in the world?

As I wrestle with this heart-wrenching dilemma---namely, safeguarding his purity vs. tainting him with the truth---I guess I'll just continue to do what I always have---present him with all the “what-ifs” for each scenario in which we find ourselves.

And hope that one day, my teachings will penetrate through those dense layers of precious innocence that shield him from the cruel world and once they have, translate into smart, appropriate action “when and if” necessary.

What do you think?

Follow me on twitter @thewarriormom.