I had a couple of your questions waiting for me to answer so let’s tackle these two issues now. One is timely and that is about what we can tell our children to help keep them safe and the other question is about the ever present issue of helping children with sleep and staying in bed at night.
Hi Greeny, What would Greeny Do?
With recent events; Jessica Ridgeway, stranger on the school playground, local and state abduction attempts etc….. a large group of us parents are looking for guidance on the appropriate language and approach to empower our children to defend themselves against such terrible things. How do we go about addressing “stranger danger” or that some people are bad? Just this thought had my daughter wide awake at night. The thought there could possibly be a “bad” person that may want to do something “bad” to her! That was too much info for her. However, I want her to be aware that she has the power to say no to a stranger, to seek out help or simply not trust an adult. Can we teach our children this without them knowing what the possible outcomes are? I just don’t know. Isn’t a small dose of fear good for your instincts?
Anyway, we would love your expertise and viewpoint on how to tackle this very serious problem. What is appropriate for what age? What is too much? Too little? Is there a more Waldorf approach besides the police distributed “Stranger Danger” list?
Thanks and hope to see you soon!
It has been an anxious time here in Colorado for parents with all that has been in the news regarding child abduction. First of all, we must remember that the percentage of strangers abducting children is very small; usually abducted children are taken by a family friend, acquaintance or relative. All it takes is one stranger abduction, though, to scare us out of our wits. Poor Jessica and her family, it is our worst nightmare. All our blessings to them. If you need confirmation about what happened at the school, talk to your teacher or the school director. Teachers are reminded to go up and ask any adult that they do not know, “Who are you?” No one should mind answering that question for the safety of the children. In fact, if you are wondering who someone is, feel free as a parent to introduce yourself and ask the person who they are. If you don’t feel satisfied, report to one of the faculty as to your concerns.
We want our children to beware but they do not have an adult understanding of things. As far as what to tell your child, I can tell you the way I have handled things with my home and school children to help protect them from any kind of abuse. Last year, two parents interviewing for a position in the school, who were both social workers, started asking about how we protect the children from abuse. I thought, “How silly! Can’t you see how nice I am? You know me and I would only hire exceptional assistants!” But as I thought about it, and consulted my son who is a social worker as well, I realized they weren’t talking about anyone personally, but asking what policies we had in place to protect children. I realized how important consciously stating our policies in the group of early childhood teachers was. At this time, the early childhood teachers at the school are discussing this topic each week at their kinder faculty meetings and we shall see what comes of it. Some of you have passed on information about a class that Feather teaches, and some of the teachers have attended it, but I and some others have not as yet. I do think, however, with such a deep understanding the teachers have of child development coupled with this other information, that they will agree on good policies.
I have strong boundaries and I have always encouraged my home and class children to find what their boundaries are also. Ways to do that are: When little ones have to go potty, let them know that they can have privacy and that you will be waiting outside the door to help them if they need it. If they don’t want you to help, don’t. A little bit of chafing, if they don’t wipe perfectly, is ok if you are reinforcing to them that their thoughts and feelings matter. The real tiny children won’t want privacy, but many children of 2-1/2 and above will want it. I always give the children the choice and ask the parents how they would like “potty time” handled. I remember a few times when I called the parent to ask them what to do. In one case a boy was saying that his penis hurt him. I told him that since his penis was “privacy” we would ask his Mom what to do about it. We were on the phone together and she told Tommy that I would check it and Tommy was fine with that. Nothing seemed to be wrong and finally Tommy said it didn’t hurt anymore. What that was about I’ll never know, but I wanted to convey to Tommy and his Mom that only Mommies and Daddies can check on a “privacy”, and when they are not there, we would always call them. I had another tiny boy who was afraid of the bathroom at the preschool. His Mom used to take him to the basement bathroom that the teachers used in the mornings. One day when the little fella wouldn’t go, even after lunch, we called Mom. Mom said to take him downstairs today, and I said ok, but only if we started that day to teach him how to go in the classroom bathroom. He and Mom spent some time in there after school and he agreed to start using it the next day. He also wanted to go without the other children around. Teachers need to listen, and be respectful of children, and always ask parents when they aren’t sure how to handle a situation. LISTEN TO CHILDREN AND LET THEM KNOW THAT THEIR FEELINGS ARE IMPORTANT.
Many times in family groups, children go around at the end of the evening to kiss and hug all of the relatives. I never allowed this for my children. If anyone asked my why, I would say that we weren’t the huggy type of people and if they pressed further I gave the full explanation. Actually, two of my children are not the touchy-feely type but one of my kids (and I) love to hug, but I explained to my kids that they should only hug (or kiss) someone when they felt it strongly in their heart and they wanted to do it. Then it would mean more. Children love to kiss Mom and Dad and perhaps a few more grownups, but usually not too many. If my young child showed no discrimination at all, then I would tell them to hug and kiss only Mom and Dad and if they wanted to hug or kiss someone else they should ask Mom or Dad. When one of my children complained that a relative always got too close to them, I told them to say, “Get back Jack!” and to walk away. You might teach your child something else, but this is a good time to bring up the IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY AND YOUR FAMILY’S WAY OF DOING THINGS.
Every professional who works with children will tell you the importance of the “knowing that the WORLD IS GOOD” for the young child, and we believe that strongly in the DWS preschool and kindergarten. You don’t have to tell your children what the bad people do. You only have to reinforce your family’s rules. I remember one time when my boy was 3-4 and he was trick-or-treating. I was waiting for him at the bottom of every set of stairs, and believe you, I would have bounded up those stairs if someone had asked my child to come inside. That was one of our family rules – You didn’t go into anyone’s home or car unless you ask Mom or Dad. My son came down a set of stairs and said, “Bob was really mad!” Why was Bob mad, honey?” I asked. “Bob was mad because I wouldn’t go into his house,” said my son. I said, “Maybe Bob has different rules in his house. But we don’t follow Bob’s rules. We follow our rules. Thank you for doing that.” Later my neighbor mentioned that my son wouldn’t go inside his house. He did seem a little perturbed. “Yes,” I told him, “That is one of our family rules.” I didn’t apologize because I wasn’t sorry. This was a person I had nothing against, I just didn’t know him well enough to let my son go into his home unaccompanied. I was glad that my son felt that it was more important to follow our advisement than to be afraid to hurt a grownups feelings. When my son was accompanied by myself or my husband, we encouraged him to be social and confident. He liked everyone and always talked to the neighbors, and was allowed to play at a few of the houses.
We need to empower our children by letting them have a voice. If they are little, however, they need to have steady supervision. When one of my daughters was 12 and went to the local school for a year, I allowed her to walk to school with a neighbor friend. I watched to make sure they met up at the corner. Since the friend had after-school activities, I went up to the corner to meet my daughter for the walk home. My children expressed interest by 14 or 15 of going to the library, pool, store with companions. This is when a cell phone can come in handy. Our #1 rule about cell phones was that if they didn’t answer it right away, they lost their right to have it for a while, and if they didn’t have a phone, we wouldn’t feel happy about letting them go places alone or with friends. I had one independent daughter that thought at first that if she didn’t answer it, I wouldn’t interfere with her time. Wrong! I really “dogged” that kid for a while until she got used to my checking up on her. You have to decide when your children can go places by themselves or with companions.
We always listened to our children and they never got in trouble for communicating anything with us. Two of my children are a little more cautious and one takes a lot more risks. We taught all of the children, and especially the fearless child to listen to her inner voice. I remember at school festivals when she would fearlessly run off and I would be praying to her angel that she was surrounded by kind people until I found her, and she was, but there were other times, every great once in a while, when she would be at a playmates house and call me up to come get her. I always did. Sometimes the parents were upset that I would come fetch her, but after explaining our policies they were ok with it. I never wanted my daughter to doubt her inner voice. She would say something like, “I didn’t like their house. “You didn’t like their house?” I asked. “What about it didn’t you like?” “I don’t know,” she said, “It just wasn’t a happy house.” “OK. You like Susie though?” “Oh yes, I like Susie and I will play with her at school” or something like that. You can reinforce your family rules by role playing. A little child won’t remember a speech that you give them, but when you are teaching them rules, when they are about 5, you can reinforce them. “How about if we carry scissors like this?” I would say and point them outward. “Oh no!” my girls would say, “Hold them like this.” In just the same matter of fact way, you can ask, “What if someone had a different rule than our family and they said that it is ok if you go home with them?” “We won’t!” my girls would say. “What if they said”…..and go on adding “that your mommy said it was ok……I have a lost kitty in my car……I have candy”….and they would yell “No way! We would run and ask you. One hopes that they would.
I have always read that pedophiles are very good at getting children’s, and the parents of children’s, trust. So just like with my neighbor, I certainly don’t have any reason to believe that he would do anything to hurt my children. I also don’t have any reason to entrust them in his care either, even for a short visit. Build a close circle of trusted friends, teachers and sitters to be with your child. If your child doesn’t like something about them, listen. Don’t be afraid, like the social workers who inquired about the preschool’s plan for safety, to ask any questions of the grownups that you entrust with your children’s care. We are in charge of our youngsters’ care and anyone offering the important role of caring for your children should be happy to answer your inquiries.
I always trusted my own inner voice too. It was a little embarrassing when I wouldn’t allow my children to play at a few of the houses of dear playmates. I just told the parents that I would be happy to have their child in our home but that my children wouldn’t be coming for play dates. One of the parents would allow his nanny to take the children anywhere they wanted to go. I did not know the nanny and was uncomfortable with their family rules. There was another family who had incredibly loose boundaries that I couldn’t deal with. I loved the children, and the parents for that matter, but was not willing to risk that my children would not be receiving proper supervision (which they wouldn’t). It is comforting to exchange play dates with friends who share your parenting style.
I wouldn’t tell very young children, 7 and below, very much at all about the evil in the world. If they hear something and ask you about it, try to answer exactly the question that they ask. Usually they don’t want the “full” answer that we are aware of. Sometimes our very bright children seem much more grownup than they are. Protect their innocence. Around 8 or 9, what the teachers call the “9 year old change” the child discovers on their own that the world is not as perfect as they thought. This is a very trying time for a child, they fall from Paradise a bit, and we need to be encouraging, telling many stories about how the courageous can overcome obstacles. Even at 9, what you tell them should be on a “need to know” basis. Later on in the grades they will find out much more information than you can believe. Hopefully by this time, you have a very open and honest relationship and they can ask you anything and you can use this time to communicate well. If they ask you a big whopping question that you are not ready for, tell them that you are going to give them a very good answer at (dinner time, night time) , and then do it. I have a very open and honest relationship with my children and it has paid off well.
Just to show you the difference in consciousness between children of different ages, I will tell a little family story. Many years ago at a family funeral, when my son was 4, he told us that he thought the cemetery was the greatest place and he wanted to have his birthday party there. He spent his time looking at stones and jumping over gravesites, and I had to hold my breath when I saw him backing up to the open grave. He stopped in time! He rode in the front of the big car with the driver and all in all it was one of the best times he had ever had. His cousin, who was 8-1/2, was devastated however, and could not stop crying. “It doesn’t seem fair,” he would say. He knew death as a reality whereas my son did not (in full). So different stages need different explanations. For my son, he needed to hear that we wouldn’t die, his dog wouldn’t die, etc.…whereas my nephew needed to be held, to be told that yes, it was very sad, but that we would stick together as a family and get over it in time. We try to protect our children from everything, but when we can’t, say if your 4 year old hears it said that someone was a bad person to a child, and asks you how did you know that, you could tell them that the person wanted a child to go with them, and that is against the rule in our family. If your older child (over 8-9) asks, you could possibly say that most people are very nice but once in a while someone’s brain doesn’t work well and they can hurt others, so you need to remember our family rules about not not engaging with people we don’t know unless Mom or Dad say it’s ok. These are only suggestions. You know your child. Be conscious of not allowing the news to be on when they are around. They could hear things that make them afraid of enjoying life to the fullest. They need to feel safe and protected to develop well. Talk to them always in the informative way that you always do, about everything, at their level.
Feel free to make comments at the end of the blog if you have ideas. Parents’ sharing is the best!
(Funny: I didn’t feel like using our precious children’s pictures in a blog about stranger danger, so the first one is from the back, the 2nd is of me at 3, and the third is a famous painting of angels.) The sweetnesses pictures will come again next time.
QUESTION #2) This second question was asked by a dear Mom of a former student over Facebook. I asked her if I could share her question on the blog because it seems that ever parent faces this situation at one time or another. I included a story for her to tell. Child Star can be a boy or a girl, of course:
How are you? Thank you always for keeping in touch and commenting on our pics. I sure miss seeing you in the hall at school!
I told F today, I was going to write to you and ask for your advice…She won’t sleep!!! No matter what!!! I read stories, rub her feet with lavender or rose rub, hot water bottle, warm bath etc. I start tucking her in around 8 ( I have tried even earlier) But it is still almost 11 by the time she falls asleep. Then, halfway through the night here she comes, into our bed. Needless to say, she has had far too many transitions lately, but I thought you may have a few fairy secrets up your sleeves.
Sadly, we are no longer at a Waldorf school for any of the girls. I am trying my hardest to have the attitude that this moment is how it should be. We had to simplify. At the last minute this summer after coming incredibly close to coming home we made the decision to try London. Country life was beautiful, but isolating and difficult. F had a wonderful Irish teacher at Michael Hall who had colorful stories and a warm heart, F misses her and the country very much. When we first arrived up in London, we tried the SW London Waldorf school, but with a 20 minute drive and a bit underdeveloped, we had a gut reaction that it just wasn’t right. We decided to put F into the neighborhood Church of England primary school. It has been nice to walk to school and meet a few neighborhood friends. They are on the ball and helping her with her reading etc. She is coming home pretty tired though and I still can’t figure out why she won’t fall asleep.
E and B are at an all girls school 20 minutes bus away. It’s pretty academic, but strong in art and music. B will forever be homesick for Faustina and her class. But they are both doing okay. It’s wonderful being up in London and for the first time in over a year we sense some stability in our lives. Love our little house in this victorian suburb of London. Yesterday, I did all my shopping by walking. I need one of those carts like yours!
Oh also, F misses her weekly story drawings. do you know of any websites where I could find guidance. I would love to keep it alive for her as she loves to draw and I have a little ache in my heart that she no longer goes to a Waldorf school.
Thank you so much Colette! Maybe you could just come and visit and get F to sleep at night.
All my love, Hope you are well!
P.S. Love your blog, read the one about reading today. xo
So nice to hear what your family is up to. Things will fall into place as time goes on and not be so challenging. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said F just has too much going on. I think of that dreamy F and I bet her head is full of images and sounds of all the things she’s seen and heard. She just has to process through them. The only thing you can do is what you are doing now. She will settle in. I am sure the worries of all the changes have been hard on you as well. Before you try to put F to bed you might go for a little walk or sit quietly with your eyes closed so you can bring her as much peace as possible. Weekly story drawings! Who better to bring F such a lesson as you with your artistic talent. Just quietly and calmly tell her a little story as you and she draw. I always loved the story about Child Star, Mother and Father Stars by Lesley Rosenberg:
Child Star was small and shone with a silvery beam. She worked hard at her shining, for she hoped one day to shine as brightly as Mother and Father. Father was a red star, burning brightly and warming the cold sky with a fiery, flaming glow. When the people on earth looked up to him, they were filled with strength and brave thoughts. Mother Star was a blue star, shining softly in the high sky, shedding soothing sapphire starlight all around her. When the people on earth looked up to her, joy and love crept into their hearts. One night Mother Star found Child Star sitting all alone in a corner of the sky, crying sadly and hiding behind a great dark cloud. “Oh Mother” she said, “I am sad. I can’t seem to shine brightly. The more I try the less I shine. The other child stars will not play with me. I’m too dull to play any sparkling or twinkling games.” “Come my little one,” she said, “we will go and tell Father Star. He will know what to do.
When Father Star heard the trouble, he glowed like a furnace and shot hot sparks. “Child” he said, “every problem in the sky has a solution” Father Star thought and thought, “I know,” he said, “we will ask Lady Moon as she knows all there is to know about night shining.” The very next night, as soon as the golden sun had gone to bed, they began the long journey across the sky to the palace of the Lady Moon. The night was half gone as they reached Lady Moon’s gate. Father Star pulled the great bell rope which hung from the tower. Immediately, the door was opening by a dancing moonbeam. “What can I do for you” the moonbeam asked. We wish to see Lady Moon” said Mother Star. “Follow me,” said the moonbeam.
They followed the moonbeam to the garden where the Lady Moon was sitting by her lake, singing. Lady Moon smiled at them all. When she saw Child Star, she picked her up onto her lap and said, “Gracious Heavens, what have you been doing to get into such a dim and faded state? Come we must find you something good to eat.” Then Child Star and Mother Star and Father Star went to Lady Moon’s kitchen in the great shining palace. In the kitchen the Lady Moon sat Child Star on a little chair. She set before her a great dish of golden cakes and a goblet of sparkling dew tea. Child Star began to eat at once.
Then Lady Moon took Father Star and Mother Star to look at her garden. There she told them the story of the golden cakes. And this is the story she told: Long ago, the Lord of the Heavens had made her Queen of the Night. He had given her a secret recipe. Now each morning just before the sun woke up, Lady Moon gathered together eggs and flour and butter and honey and raisins and mixed them all in her biggest golden bowl. Then just as the first morning sunbeams were peeping over the hills to the East she took her bowl to the shores of the lake. As the sun climbed above the rim of the hills, she carefully caught each sunbeam in her golden bowl. She caught each sunbeam the very moment it came tumbling down the hills. Then she mixed and stirred until all the dough was full of sunshine. And when she finished mixing, she went back to the kitchen, spooned the cakes onto a tray and popped them into the oven. When Lady Moon finished telling her story, she took Father and Mother Star back to her kitchen.
In the kitchen the most amazing sight met their eyes. The great dish was quite empty and sitting at the table, drinking dew tea was the brightest little star they had ever seen. “Gracious Heavens,” said Mother Star, “can that really be my little Child Star?!” “Strike me with lightning,” said Father Star, “who is that little firecracker?” “It is I, tis I” said Child Star, smiling all over her face so that the whole kitchen was filed with twinkles. “Come” said Lady Moon, “you must be on your way if you are to be home by sunrise.” Then Father Star and Mother Star and Child Star bade the Lady Moon farewell and set out once more to cross the deep, dark night sky. But this time, Child Star ran ahead all the way, dancing and singing and twinkling till at last they reached their own corner of the sky. From that night forth, Child Star grew bigger and bigger and brighter and brighter until the night came when he was the greatest golden star in the whole wide sky. When the people on the Earth looked up at Child Star, they were filled with wonder and hope. And as they Slept, they dreamed wonderful golden dreams.
Maybe some day after you tell this story for a few days, you and F could make some little “sun” cakes. Make this story as long or short as you want, change it to reflect your circumstances, etc. At any rate, F will be ok, because she has you at her side. I hope she is sleeping soundly soon.
p.s.: Would you mind if I used this on my WWGD question on my blog (What Would Greeny Do?) I won’t use names. I think many could benefit from hearing this story.
Oh Colette, thank you so much!!!What a wonderful story to share with me, this will be nice for us. Of course I don’t mind if you use this on the blog. I don’t mind at all about the names or situation. I will keep you posted on our progress. All my love, J(and F too!)
J: I also thought to tell you that academic work can make children very tired at first. I don’t know how Flora does with reading, but if it is challenging at all, expect her to be extra tired because of all the energy she is expending. You would think tired children would sleep well, but they don’t. Make everything she does after school calm and search for that perfect pocket of time to tuck her in. You are such a lovely Mom. Keep working on it and better times will come.