Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Article: Is Childhood Dangerous?

Is Childhood Dangerous? is one of the best brief analyses I've read of how parenting has become increasingly anxious over the past generation. I am currently working on my next book, which will help parents distinguish between unwarranted anxiety and the issues they should be focusing on. Child safety is an adult responsibility, but it's not the stereotypical "stranger jumping out of the bushes" that we should be primarily worried about. The odds of a stranger abduction are about 1 in a million, but the odds of a child experiencing any type of sexual abuse are roughly 1 in 5 for girls and boys. Our attention needs to be focused proportional to the risk. Darkness2Light.org provides a powerful resource for more information on this topic, and my favorite book written for parents is Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker.

What I liked about Is Childhood Dangerous? is that it explores the costs and risks associated with overprotecting our children. When is the appropriate time to let our kids walk to school or roam our neighborhood on their own? How can we foster their development and independence within appropriate limits? By the time our kids leave home, they need to be able to navigate the world on their own without beind tied to "helicopter parents" via their cellphone. This is the most challenging issue for me to think about as a parent and an author giving advice to other families. How can we give our kids the life experience they need to grow into independent adults while also keeping them protected as kids? There is an 18-year long continuum here to traverse. I love the expression "Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions." (Original author unknown, as far as I have found.) That's the paradox of parenting, especially when it come to teenagers: creating a balance that gives our kids enough room to make some bad decisions, while trying to ensure that even those bad decisions don't put them at risk major trauma when it comes to driving, drugs and alcohol, dating decisions, and other choices and rites of passage.

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