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How to keep your children safe?

I have vivid memories of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when I was young. I saw it a few times and, on reflection, I still can’t believe they allowed the Child Snatcher and his lollipops. I had nightmares for years afterwards. Proper nightmares. How strange that they would make such a film and stranger still that parents would take their kids to it.

At any rate, my parents always did the best they knew with me. They were dedicated, self-sacrificing and deeply loving. I don’t blame them, but they didn’t do so well on this occasion. After Chitty Chitty Band Bang, what I wanted to hear from them was that there is no Child Snatcher and, indeed, there are no child snatchers at all. I wanted the security of knowing from them that I could not be abducted. Unfortunately, they didn’t give me that. They gave me a feeling (with good intentions) that children do get abducted sometimes – but that child would not be me. As a result, I felt deeply insecure in my childhood years.

Now, you will tell me perhaps, we live in a world where children do get abducted. Unfortunately, there are indeed child snatchers. Surely, as my parents thought, I needed to know so that I could stay safe? And surely my own children need to know about potential child abductors also? For me, as a parent, no, and no again. Let me explain.

Firstly, there is a cost benefit consideration. Children, thank God, rarely get abducted. And, as a parent, I can do a lot to lower those odds further, without significantly restricting my child’s life. So, I believe that my kids are very safe – not perfectly safe, but very safe. And, ultimately, I don’t have full control over that safety even if I do tell them about child abductors. What I do have a lot of influence over, however, is their feeling of security; their feeling that they are safe; their feeling of wellbeing. I can’t create those feelings for them; thankfully, I don’t need to because they are programmed with those feelings already. What I can do, though, if I’m not careful, is undermine them – I can innocently provide them with, and then help nurture, insecure thinking, worry, fear and ultimately, as in my case, blind terror. Yes, as a child, I was (quite literally) looking around every corner for child snatchers, checking my own room a few times before I went to bed. I was never going to be abducted. But for that certainty, my parents had innocently sacrificed something so much more valuable – my peace of mind. And it just wasn’t worth it.

I have a second reason not to teach my children to be afraid that adults might abduct them. I see it as one of my most fundamental and sacred duties, as a parent, to teach my children that the world is good and that human beings are good – created in God’s image as they all are. Once again, this is not an overly challenging task because children already know it. They are trusting, loving, innocent and pure. I cannot and must not undermine that. I do not want my children growing up feeling that the world is a bad place and that human beings are dangerous and to be feared. Yes, there are misguided people; yes, there are people who are dangerous and frightening. Yes, they need to be careful. But first let them learn to see the God in human beings, to see the goodness, to have trust and faith in humanity – then we can talk about how to be careful. Once again, it is not even close to being worth it, protecting them from potential harm, whilst teaching them to fear and feel insecure around all human beings. The price is just too high. As it was for me.

So, I won’t let my children watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I don't want to put ideas into their heads that don't need to be there, and if they ask me about child abductors, I will tell them they don’t need to worry. Strangers are not bad; human beings are good. My responsibility is to do my best to be sure they are safe. But I’m not God and I can’t provide that guarantee. (Fortunately, God is indeed God and I can leave that bit up to him.) I will nurture their innocence, not their cynicism, their love, not their mistrust, their hopes, not their fears, knowing that their inner wellbeing, security and resilience is so much more important than anything else.

If you want to learn more about the balance between keeping our children safe whilst retaining the innocence of their childhood years, amongst many other topics, please join us for our 10-week series on parenting, starting on this coming Tuesday.

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