Parental Anxiety about Stranger Danger –ABDUCTION FEARS
Abduction of children is statistically rare, yet parents often enough make it a high-level fear minimizing more obvious sources of trauma such as early loss, bullying, fears of COVID, mental illness in children and teens, parental and marital discord.
So why is this not prevalent subject viewed as prevalent? There is no particular evidential research on this question, but potential theories may include:
- High divorce rate leading to fears of parental abduction by more absent parent.
- Parent Alienation Syndrome where one disturbed parent with primary custody maligns the other parent turning the children against that parent unfairly and incorrectly and then fears reprisal of abduction.
- Generally outsized parental guilt and fear because parents are not well trained in this most responsible occupation: parenting.
- Overpublicized crime against children is becoming exponential by pundits on television news reports daily.
- Highly publicized poor gun control in the U.S. leads to generalized anxiety about crimes in schools killing children.
- Inadequate understanding of mental health in children and teens by anxiety ridden parents who focus on the external world of kids rather than the internal world of kids that is much harder to decipher yet far more important.
How to be Appropriately Protective While Raising Kids who aren’t Unusually Fearful
Parents need to monitor their own generalized anxiety that maybe deeply rooted resulting in this anxiety being absorbed by young children who become fearful because of the tone of their parents’ everyday voice, their parents not well-hidden fears, their parents excessive hounding their kids with questions about their safety to and from school.
Anxious parents hardly realize how ‘contagious’ their states of mind are on their children.
Parents who use “Parental Intelligence” (Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Laurie Hollman, 2015) learn to listen well without interruption to their children learning what is on their minds rather than projecting parental concerns.
These children have parents who understand their behaviors have meaning and aren’t the result of “being bad kids.
Their behaviors are messengers about child and teen distress. It’s the parent’s task to decode the meaning of this behavior so the parent and child together can problem solve what is actually being depicted internally by behavior externally.
Parents who collaborate with their even young children about solving problems do not have fearful kids because the kids feel safe and secure and trust they can talk openly with their parents.
Real external concerns in various geographic areas can be addressed simply with a few parental rules the children learn young such as don’t get in a stranger’s car, always let parents know what you are doing after school, at a young age memorize your address and phone number in case you need a parent, look both ways crossing the street, wear masks in dense areas to avoid unnecessary exposure to the flu and COVID and other viruses.
Parental Attitudes About Rules and Limit Setting
However, the manner in which these rules are taught is the key to keeping fearfulness and anxiety low.
Give one rule at a time spacing out the rules set.
Give the rule in a calm informational tone suggesting common sense rather than fearfulness.
Have discussions with kids about the reasons for these rules and be open to their opinions without interruption.
Respect that children have more experience in today’s school life than parents who attended grade and high school years ago.
So, listening to their daily experiences inform parents who may presume they know more than they actually do about daily school life.
PARENT PARTICIPATION IN SCHOOLS
Parents need to be active participants in school board meetings in their locale. So they are part of discussions about decisions about security measures in school including well-enforced rules about adults entering school buildings during the day as well as for evening concerts, plays, sports events, etc.
In conclusion if parental fears of abduction are out of line with reality, they need to look inside themselves for the sources of these fears that don’t match the imagined frequency of occurrence and focus on the real internal and external fears of kids at different developmental stages.