The Truth About Parenting Kids in an Unsafe World

When I was a 9 years old, I snuck $3 out of my mom’s wallet and rode my bike to the corner drug store. I bought her a tiny china bud vase with “Happy Anniversary” painted in gold. I was a good-hearted thief and my mom loved the gift. While she may have questioned my pickpocketing ways, she never worried about my safety on the sidewalk, next to a busy road.

I knew dinner was ready because my siblings and I listened for my mom’s call throughout the neighborhood. We rode our bikes around town, to the store and to school, unchaperoned. We climbed in ditches and went inside our neighbor’s houses. We caught fireflies in mason jars and made yarn pompoms and went door-to-door selling them all summer long, just for fun.

When my husband was 10, my son’s age now, he put hundreds of miles on his BMX bike, riding from school to his parent’s print shop to baseball practice with his slugger bat slung around his back, and back home in time for supper. We didn’t have cell phones or websites that allowed us to check for neighborhood pedophiles.

parenting truth

We simply lived in a different world. 

I look back on my carefree childhood and I grieve what I will never be able to give my kids: innocence.

Over Easter, we visited my in-laws rural farm located in a town with less than 500 people.

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With hundreds of acres to explore, my kids absolutely love jumping hay bales, picking wildflowers, filling the table with farm fresh food and roaming. Getting poison ivy, optional.

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On the way home from working with the cattle, and away from my kids’ ears, my mother-in-law told me about the recent trial of a crazy man who murdered two young girls walking along side the road in a neighboring small town a few summers ago. We wondered if drugs and violent video games led him to such a horrible act.

It saddened me to think even the “safe” places really aren’t any more.

A few hours later, I urged my 6 year old to go play outside while we worked on supper. She looked up at me and said, “But what if someone steals me?”

Her fear hits close to home.

This is the world we live in, where our Kindergartners understand lockdown drills because school (even church, movie theatre and university) shootings have become a sick twisted  way of life. And my little one thinks about abduction?

And while I refuse to live in fear of what could happen down every dirty road or at the park across the street from my house, I also choose to take smart precautions. So, where does that leave us? Longing for an innocence that doesn’t exist as we raise our children in a world vastly different than the one we grew up in.

But we take heart because Christ did not leave us hopeless or with fear as a companion.

Truths We Must Take to Heart:

We Aren’t Really in Control- Ultimately, we have to relinquish the myth that we can actually keep our children safe and our homes secure and our lives out of harms-way. Oh, we can be wise, but we can’t be in control. As a parent, this is the hardest lesson. If you watch old home videos of me with my kids, I say “Be careful” 4256 times. But I didn’t give them breath and I can’t determine when they take their last. I can shepherd and walk beside them, but they are not my creation. They belong to God. Living in this freedom has allowed us to traipse all over Kenya, Africa, and trust God to do His part as we do ours. We might not be in control, but we cling to the promise that He is and works things out for our good. Romans 8:28

God Does Not Call us to be Safe- I love safety. I’m a seatbelt-wearing, vaccinating, precaution-taking mother. But if you read the Bible, you don’t find promises of safety. Actually, you discover the opposite. Safety can keep us frozen in place, it can distort adventure, it can paralyze us with fear. “Followers of God don’t always know where they are going, but they know who they are with. We do not bow at the alter of safety.” David Platt. So, while we long to provide safe homes and environments for our children, we can’t swallow the pill of ease because we’ve convinced ourselves we are safe. On the contrary, radical obedience to Jesus can be risky. James 1:12

This is Not Our Forever Home-And this is the truth that I cling to. It offers comfort when I am afraid or worry has found a foothold. The house we live in isn’t really our home. The swinging hammock in the back, the chalkboard table we crowd around–these are temporary. We are ill-fitted for this world, we stick out like sore thumbs and are urged not to conform–why? Because Jesus is preparing our forever home with him. This is our blessed hope, the promise we cling to in our changing world. I Peter 2:11

Perception is still Perception- Whenever I hear about local crime, I tell my friends about it. News spreads quickly as we try and look out for each other and then there’s the news on TV, Internet, etc.  I’ve updated this post with these stats. It shows that overall crime against children has gone down, but perception of crime has gone up. So we are safer, but feel less safe, mostly due to media coverage and constant access from living such connected lives. So, is the root of our fear based on violence in our world? Or is actually from overexposure and access? [Deep Thoughts]

Above all, there’s no room for fear to rule our hearts because that’s where love lives. And perfect love casts out fear.

Comments

  1. 1

    Cara says

    Just remember that you were actually LESS SAFE when you were a kid than your kids are today. Violent crime of all types, including against kids is lower than when we were growing up. http://www.freerangekids.com/crime-statistics/

    I worked for the highest criminal court in Texas for a year. Basically all I did was read true crime. This is what I can tell you, I didn’t see a SINGLE CASE where the victim of violent crime was unconnected in any way to either sketchy people or a sketchy area. It is so rare. Literally, I never saw one. The only one I saw was a reference to a case from the 80s. Not to blame victims at all, but pretty much all of the victims I saw were either living in or visiting dangerous neighborhoods, or hanging out with dangerous people.

    The stories we hear about on the news that make us so scared are absolutely the exception, not the rule. They just SEEM more prevalent today because of the 24 hour news cycle.

    Our kids are obviously never 100% safe, but they definitely aren’t nearly as unsafe as the news makes them out to be.

    • 1.1

      kristen says

      Thanks for sharing your opinion! I really appreciate your perspective and the statistics. I added them to the post. Thank you. It’s interesting to think about our fear as parents being a product of manipulation by our media. Either way, God is in control and casts out fear.

  2. 2

    says

    Great post!

    While I do want to keep my children safe, I would be a basket case if I worried about my 12 children 24/7. :)

    We live life. We take precautions. But, we do not live in fear.

    Other mothers have been in awe as I have sent my teens off around the world on missions trips . . . as I sent my eldest son off to Iraq to fight for our freedoms . . . and I truly have not lived in fear for them. I know that God has called each of them. I know that they are following Him. I know that He can protect them much better than I can (if that is His will). I also know that He will call them home, in His time . . . whether on the mission field, or in the military, or in a car accident, or in their old age. Either way . . . it will be in His time (irregardless of whether I have spent my life worrying about them or not).

    So glad I found your blog this week. Look forward to reading more.

    Laurel
    mama of 12

  3. 3

    says

    I’ve got to remember this all the time. Not letting my kids think that safety should hold them back from what God might be calling them to do.
    Great post!

  4. 4

    Heather S. says

    Hubby and I just discussed this. We do live a society that is 24/7 media coverage. We hear so many bad things happening all the time that we begin to think they are more prevalent than they are, I imagine if I heard about every vehicle accident on the road I might refuse to drive again. It’s a balance of being safe and smart without being a crazy helicopter parent. We, too, are learning to let our children grow up and trust that the Lord has them. We don’t really take many chances, but we’re learning to let go little by little. What a timely post!

  5. 5

    Kristy K says

    I heard a quote on a Christian radio talk show a few weeks ago… the person was speaking in reference to playground equipment, but I think it can apply to all aspects of childhood. “We need to make things as safe as NECESSARY for our kids, not as safe as POSSIBLE.” That’s so true. If I’m hovering over and sheltering my kids so much that they never take a risk, they’ll grow up to be adults who are afraid to take them as well.

    Great post!

  6. 6

    says

    Incredible thoughts, thanks for sharing. I have found that the 4 suggestions you share are incredibly freeing and empowering. Choosing to live those out is of great importance and only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Blessings!
    Megan

  7. 7

    Tiffany says

    Thank you so much for this post! You have worded perfectly what I’ve felt since my first battle with fear over my kids. We had just brought our firstborn home from the hospital and were laying him down in his own room right next to ours for the night. As I turned to walk out the door,fear flooded me…what if someone breaks in the house and takes him, what about a fire and I can’t reach him, what if he stops breathing, what about SIDS ….. And then just as quickly God reminded me that my son was His son too and He loves him. And perfect love casts out all fear! 9years and two more boys later, that’s how I live my life….my boys are God’s.

  8. 8

    Marla says

    This is so true. I grew up in I tiny town of about 300. Walked or rode my bike everywhere. In my presumably safe town we never even locked our doors. Interestingly over the past few years I have learned that we had 2 pedophiles actively abusing children, along with some other disturbing characters. I guess it wasn’t as safe as we thought. But we didn’t have media telling us such things. How I long for Heaven!

    • 8.1

      says

      I was a teenager in the ’70s . . . living in the same area as Ted Bundy and as The Green River Killer. I was aware of the attacks on and murders of teen girls in my area. I even looked just like the profile of the Ted Bundy cases (long blonde hair parted down the middle). But . . . my friends and I never lived in fear. We went about life. I road the city bus by myself (even transferring busses downtown in the “ghetto”). I rode my bike alone . . . for miles. Yes. We were aware, but we did not live in fear. I believe that today’s news coverage and television shows cause many of us to live in fear. Yet, God tells us not to live in fear, but to trust Him for each minute of every day of our lives.

  9. 9

    says

    Thank you for writing this! When I saw the title, I cringed, thinking it was going to be another “Today’s world is so unsafe” post. So glad to see you’re espousing common sense for all, using our awesome Heavenly Father as the cornerstone to that common sense! I am a big fan of the book and website Free Range Kids (www.freerangekids.com) by Lenore Skenazy. It’s not Christian, but uses the same points you just made here to teach people about the REAL risks in life, instead of constantly living in fear.

  10. 10

    Lynnebee says

    I tell myself over and over again that God loves my children and grandchildren even MORE than I do. I claim 2 Timothy 1:7. I do grieve the loss of innocence many times, but I also know that God has allowed my grandones to be born at this time and place in life. I need to trust Him with that, or my faith is just empty words. And I also think that the media 24/7 is to blame for alot of our perceptions of crime and public safety. When something horrific happens, I try to remember that we are hearing about it in our state/town, yet many places have the same horrific crimes even on a monthly basis. Good post Kristin (some times I wonder if we would be safer somewhere overseas ;-)

  11. 13

    Julie says

    I loved this post; thank you for your heartfelt words of wisdom! It is so very true that we are God’s children and our lives belong to His will – thankfully! There is no fear in faith and I for one must remind myself of that as I too can be a very precautionary mama. I will say one thing though – sometimes perception is reality. A blanket crime statistic for the entire US really doesn’t mean too terribly much to individual towns and neighborhoods. Some have gotten worse and people need to be aware.

  12. 14

    says

    Kristen,
    Whenever I’m tempted to fear, I am comforted by the sovereignty of God and the power of prayer. Thank you for adding your amen to my thoughts. Although fear is a natural emotion, what we do with our fears either honor or dishonor God. May we place all our anxious thoughts in His kind hands and let him carry them. Stopping by from Hungry for God; Starving

    • 14.1

      says

      oops — hit send before I finished the title of my blog: Hungry for God; Starving for Time (better than just starving :)

  13. 16

    says

    Great post, Kristen. Fear is gripping and letting go of our perceived control is so hard — which is so funny, how can we hold so tightly to something that isn’t even real? But I do. All the time. Until my insides hurt.

  14. 17

    says

    Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;
    Deut 7.18
    when I am tempted to fear remembering God’s past deliverances helps a lot.

  15. 18

    Grace says

    Very good post, Kristen! I remember reading a Guideposts article by a woman who had a wonderful childhood. Years after she was grown her family found out that a man in their neighborhood had molested many of the kids in the neighborhood but never her or her siblings. Her parents eventually talked to the man and asked him what had kept him from harming their children. He replied that there was just something about their children that made him know he couldn’t touch them. The parents had prayed every day over their kids. Praying and trusting God is certainly the answer to living in an unsafe world. Thank you for such a great post.

  16. 19

    says

    I grew up a farm kid and spent a lot of time on my grandparent’s farm surrounded by family. We were more worried about cutting ourselves on rusty farm equipment or falling out a tree than being abducted. (early 80s) I did all the things farm kids did and my parents believed I was perfectly safe – and I was molested by someone they trusted anyway. Yeah – I think we’re just more aware of what’s always been there. There’s nothing new under the sun, after all.

    I think our kids are as afraid of the statistical long-shots as we are ourselves. Tori Stafford was abducted in the next town over. An 8yr old abducted from the schoolyard and brutally murdered two hours later – the same day my 8yo daughter begged to walk home alone and had left for school angry that I’d said no. I’d said no out of fear of that very thing regardless of how unlikely it was. I think, as parents, we’re more empowered and informed than our parents were — but are we making our kids paranoid? Food for thought.

  17. 24

    says

    W 1995 r. Pradeep Sindhu, przemożny erudyta w
    reputacje Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, odstąpił spośród wakacji z plan, żeby otworzyć instytucję do przynoszenia cennej charakterystyki routerów do załogi przez Net bezproblemowo ewoluujących
    się. Sindhu rozpoczęła tabliczka w smutnym 1996 r.
    z 200.000 baksów w wypłaty ziarn spośród nazwa ciężki venture capital Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers,
    transakcji wykonywanych przez Vinod Khosla. Zatrudnił dwóch wyjątkowych projektantów,
    Bjorn Liencres spośród Sun Microsystems tudzież Dennis
    Ferguson od MCI. Do dyscypliny biznesowej Sindhu pracownik Scott Kriens, udziałowiec spółki StrataCom.

    Jako oczyszczenie jałowca zdobył 6 milionów dolców w grosze spośród AT&T Corporation, odtąd Anschutz w 1997 roku.

    Przyjęła również spodziewanym 14 milionów baksów spośród odwrotnych kapitałów szmalu wzmożonego ryzyka.
    Zatem dostąpił polecenie rzeczywiste spośród też 40
    milionów zielonych z Northern Telecom, 3Com, UUNET Technologies,
    spółka tendencyjna WorldCom, Siemens AG/Newbridge Networks Układu;
    natomiast Ericsson.

  18. 25

    says

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