Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Being Safe Without Being Scary

04/28/2011 at 09:00 AM ET
Courtesy Elisabeth Röhm

Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, has a busy 2011 ahead of her.

The actress, 38, can be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films Chlorine, Transit and Abduction, as spokesmom for Juno Baby, and can be found online on Facebook and @ElisabethRohm on Twitter.

In her latest blog, Röhm discusses growing up without a sense of ‘stranger danger’ — and what it means for today’s friendly kids, especially Easton August, 3, her daughter with fiancé Ron Anthony.

The world is sadly becoming a scary place for kids. I feel like we are living in a police state. I mean, what the h—? Our kids are simply terrified to talk to strangers. Seriously, have you tried it lately? Have you walked through a grocery store and said to a little girl, “What a pretty dress you’re wearing!” and gotten a super-duper big smile in return? I don’t think so! Maybe a reserved, “Oh, thank you,” from the mother as the child anxiously looks at the parent as if to say, “A stranger is talking to me … what do I do?”

Or have you been at the park when you’re there with your little ones and noticed that the other children stick like glue to their parents or each other? They just don’t seem likely to talk to another mother who is only being friendly, let alone a father. At the park the other day I said to a little girl, “You are just gorgeous!” Her eyes widened like pies as she looked at me in abject terror. Come on, I know I’m a weird actress type but I can’t be that scary, right?

So I started talking to Ron, my legion of mom friends, Aunt Lolly and the rest, all whom agreed that they too have seen this epidemic. If you even look sideways at a kid these days, they just go stiff and seem to be at a complete loss for words. I get it, they’ve been trained by us not to talk to strangers, at all! A friendly “hello” these days or an observation of a child’s appearance is grounds for terror? WTF?

I’m truly shocked by this observation. I mean, come on moms! Why do we have to drill such fear into our kids? Well, I think we all know the answer to that one.

I’m sure by now you’re all used to my childhood anecdotes (haha) so I’ll keep this one ultra-brief! I grew up in upstate New York so it’s impossible to really compare it to L.A. or another urban/suburban environment. It was as close to “COUNTRY” as you can get without being in the wilds of Tennessee or the outskirts of Alaska! Seriously though, part of its charm are the endless acres of forests, and back when I was a kid everyone seemed to have a little bit of land.

It was amazing! The children, myself included, would disappear in the morning only to return for lunch and then they’d be back out again until dusk. I don’t recall my mother ever calling 911 (I don’t think there was even such a thing back then) or sending the dogs out to search for me EVER! She didn’t live in fear that I would be abducted, molested or worse … all of the above.

It was just a different time. Kids were allowed to be kids and roam, explore, get into harmless trouble and GASP! even talk to strangers. And sadly those times are gone now, for the most part.

The other day my daughter and I went to have lunch with a new friend of mine. As we approached her — even before I got a chance to hug her — Easton threw out her arms and gave her big ole’ fashioned squeeze. As she pulled out of the spontaneous embrace, she looked at my friend innocently and said, “What’s your name?”

The hairs stood on my neck and I must have turned white because I could physically feel the blood draining from my body. My new friend looked at me and said, “Wow. She’s so friendly!” But the emphasis of the statement made it more like a question. Like, “Why is she so friendly?”

My friend is also a mother and at lunch we talked about the dangers of Easton and other children being that friendly with strangers (even if the parent is right there). Because let’s face it … children get stalked and it is a bizarrely twisted world out there sometimes!

Now we know — our awareness has changed what with the news, Amber alerts, and TV shows that highlight violence towards children. It’s all out in the open now! No wonder moms everywhere are drilling it home. But our moms never had that much information, therefore making it a non-issue to be a confident, friendly and outgoing kid. This makes me seriously upset! Our kids have to live in fear.

Gone are the days of lost afternoons. Gone are the sweet gestures of being at the park and accepting a shared snack from another mother (because she’s a stranger). A certain connection between people is being lost. And it sucks!

We have laughingly and with a hint of pride called Easton “The Mayor”. I kid you not, but everywhere we go she says “Hi” to everyone she sees — and I mean everyone! I’ll be pushing the stroller down the sidewalk as we pass a person by and she’ll be leaning out saying, “Hi” with a huge smile spread across her face. We’ll be driving in the car and her window is down at a red light — “Hi” she says, waving and giggling at some stranger.

She is incredibly affectionate, loving, friendly, tall (for her age) and dare I say quite lovely — a killer combo as she gets older. A killer combo now? Could be, right moms? It breaks my heart to see fear in others, to create fear in anyone but most especially my child.

The question today, PEOPLE.com readers, is what other option do we have? Really? What else can we do when we know so much and see so much violation out there?

Weigh in ladies! I’m looking forward to our classic pow-wows!

— Elisabeth Röhm

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Showing 36 comments

Dawn on

Wow, as a kid I too remember being out first thing in the morning and the rule was we all had to be home when the street lights came on at dusk. I don’t know if we didn’t have as much fear as children because there weren’t as many “crazies” out there or if we just were as aware because the media wasn’t as prevalent as it today with all the stories of child abductions etc.

I have two children one is reserved and one is basically fearless. They both scare me to death! Will one run off with the friendly stranger? Will the other one not tell me if some one approaches her? My friends and I have established safe rules for the kids and we let them know that if one parent isn’t available, you immediately go to the next mom on the list.

Unfortunately we do instill a level of wariness amongst our kids. We can’t be with them all the time but we can make sure they understand the seriousness of being cautious with strangers.

Jamie on

Elisabeth, I know exactly what you mean. I am a new mom (little daughter is only 12 weeks old), and I really wish the element of fear was not such a part of our lives. We want our children to always be loved and protected, no doubt. But are we losing some of the joy of childhood by being “helicopter parents?” I really can’t wait to read some more replies and see what other moms think!

Kelly on

unfortunately that is the way society is now and it is sad. I too used to walk blocks by myself at even 7 years old to a friends house to play all day. On Halloween me and my friends went trick or treating door to door…after age 10..we went alone and went for miles til after dark. There were no cell phones to call anyone if anything happened. But..we survived somehow. No car seats either…sometimes not even seat belts. Kids had to be missing at least 24 hours before anything would be done. I never thought not to smile at an adult if they smiled at me or say thank you if someone complimented my dress or hair.

My daughter was born in 1989..she is 22 now..but she was shy and reserved. If someone smiled at her she would hide behind my leg but she would smile back. My son wanted to shake hands and hug everyone. I did discourage it most of the time only because I didn’t know how OTHERS would react. He was and remains a very friendly kid who says hello to strangers coming in and out of the local Starbucks when we are there, he holds doors open for people and says please and thank you to strangers all the time not thinking anything of it. My daughter is the same way now too.

I don’t know…it is sad that our world has become this way…but I guess it is somewhat of a necessity these days.

Allegra on

I agree, but as a Mom I could never imagine letting my children out alone, after dark walking around, etc. It’s sad, but I completely understand why people are the way they are.

M on

very tough question. I try not to scare my kids (and certainly if they are in my line of sight I don’t worry/stop them from talking to other parents) but we have had talks about inappropriate touching, not getting into cars or walking with strangers. We live in a low-key suburban area, but we still have several sex offenders in our area (one on our street) and that thought is never far from my mind if my son bursts out of the house in his underwear.

Every time I see a news story about a child being abducted or harmed in the most seemingly innocent places, it sends a shard through my heart. It’s impossible not to be suspicious, but we should try our best not to put those fears on to our children. They only need to know what they need to know: ie, “you never follow a stranger into the woods or into the car, even if they have a puppy/candy/whatever.” not, “there are people who hurt or kill little kids so stay away from everyone you don’t know.”

Anonymous on

this very topic makes me hesitant to have kids. i know the world has gotten so dangerous and scary, and i don’t want to be overprotective (like my mom). i don’t want to scare my future kids into not enjoying life. please give me advice about this. i really want kids, but i don’t know 😦

Anonymous on

btw, elisabeth and easton, you are both gorgeous. i admire you so much! i love serena southerlyn!

Tina on

My sister does what she calls face checks. Her kids are allowed to play outside and roam the neighborhood ( they have a street they can not cross) but every hour they have to come home and do a face check and answer a couple basic questions. Where are you? Who are you with?

If they fail to show up they are called on their cell phones (my sister has one just for outside play assigned to whomever happens to be playing outside) well now that they are old enough for phones that has changed they each have their own. When they are at their friends house they still have to do face checks, via phone. Goes something like Mom I’m good having a good time, yes I am safe here. This is who is here blah blahs dad so and so’s friend.

As kids we ran all over the place with very little supervision. We had a single mom who worked two and three jobs, so yes stuff did happen. Cause it turns out the friendly neighbor really isn’t such a good guy, so my sister had to come up with a way to let her kids be kids but still keep them safe.

Failure to contact mom when you are supposed to can and most often does result in grounding without a darn good reason. It seems to work for them. Her kids respect the system.

Paige on

When I was about 5 years old, a man attempted to lure me out of our town’s local library. This experience has changed my life and how I raise my 20 month old daughter, however, the one thing that protected me the most was my gut instinct.

My mother taught me at a very young age to trust my gut feeling- if something didn’t feel right, then I didn’t do it. Suffice to say my gut instinct made me turn back to my family in the library that day because the way this man looked at me made my gut feeling feel off. Thank god for that or who knows where I would be today.

My point is that I didn’t necessarily grow up feeling afraid, just cautious. Now that I have a little girl, I do worry about stranger danger. But I’ve done so much research on this issue and I know the statistics. Unfortunately, children are more likely to be victimized by someone they know.

So what can we do? Educate yourselves and know the warning signs. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has great resources, even on how to educate kids. Teach children early on how to trust their instincts and let them know that they can talk about anything with you.

Also, let them know by example who is a “stranger” and who isn’t. Never force your child to hug someone they don’t want to, even if it’s grandparents or aunts and uncles because you are telling them it’s ok to trust their own feelings. This is how I plan to raise my child – to be cautious, but optimistic.

Bottom line – trust the uh oh feeling, even when it might not be dangerous, it’s a good way to keep your kids safe but not necessarily raise them under fear.

Toya L. on

Wow, that’s a good question. In this day in age they have to be taught stranger safety 101 and those cute gps watches aren’t bad either.

Hen on

I live in a small town where kids walk home from school, play in the neighbors yard until dusk, cross the street by themselves and ride bikes into town. It’s not perfect and we talk about “stranger danger” but for the most part we all feel safe and it shows in the kids.. Maybe its different in a big city.

The world can be a scary place and you walk a tough line as a parent trying your best to teach and not scare but even where I live, I do think a little “scare” in kids is okay just to make them aware that there are “bad” people in the world. Age appropriate of course.. Ugh, so confusing!

btw I love her thoughts on raising Easton!

mary on

Boy this hits home. We have four kids 18,16,10 &6. I have never let any of our kids walk by themselves. So am I being paranoid or safe? I guess we should ask my kids.

And I thought that when the oldest turned “legal ” I would calm down a bit. Im still waiting. I still ask her where are you going, what are you doing and so on. She is going away for college in the fall and just thinking about it can cause me to panic. At least she is street smart – our 6yr old loves animals and people. That’s a whole different worry.

Argh never ends. If there are mistakes in this post I’m doing this from my phone. And the window is so gosh darn small.

Emily on

I grew up in a small town about 80 miles from the “big city”. We never even locked our house or car doors. My friends and I would walk miles into the woods to go swimming in little lakes and creeks without an adult and would be gone from morning to dusk.

I now live in a bigger city and have an eight month old. I am sad that she won’t have the same freedom as I did as a child. I want her to be a kid that says hello and smiles at people, but I can see how that might not be a good thing. I hope somehow I can find a balance with her, alowing her some freedom while instilling boundaries and caution as well.

Diedre on

Unfortunately, most of us were brought up at the time that Adam Walsh was taken. I think, rather I know that his abduction changed the way that alot of our parents felt about our general safety.

I am a parent of a 3yr old and I would be lying if I said that I was not anxious when he is not within my eye sight or someone speaks to him that my husband and I don’t know. Sadly, even or Halloween traditions have changed. My son doesn’t trick or treat but, instead we have a Halloween “spooktacular” for his friends at the house. We do all the “traditional” activities,bobbing for apples,trick or treating from room to room and a costume contest. All of our friends and relatives agree that its a safer activity then kids going from door to door.

Its sad that the small joys have been taken away but, I am finding fun alternatives and that’s what counts! Ultimately if everyone focuses on raising good human beings maybe our children really can change the world.

jen on

The people who statistically abuse or molest children aren’t strangers – they are people they know.

Hence, I agree with those of you telling your children to learn to “trust their gut” – I think this helps protect them from the people that are trying to harm them (whether they are strangers or friends/family members). In schools, they sometimes tell kids that if you get lost that it’s safer to trust “a mom with kids” – and that this is sometimes a useful rule of thumb to help kids figure out who is “safer” than other demographics.

Who knows.

jen on

BTW, this is a personal pet peeve of mine, but it’s often detrimental to praise girls on their appearance (ie. Elisabeth telling a random girl she is gorgeous kind of bothers me despite it being a seemingly innocuous gesture) – yes, I realize the intent was to pay the girl a compliment, but when girls grow up getting praised on how “cute” or “pretty” they are, they begin to associate their “goodness” with their appearance. It becomes the way they see themselves – as their body/face, not for who they are inside.

Also, try not to talk about dieting or how “bad” you are if you dessert or eat a lot…I just heard this happen the other day with someone sitting with a 13-year-old girl. Please THINK about how you talk about body image and appearance. The statistics all point to girls having far more body image/self worth problems than boys do. Focus on praising children for their EFFORT and abilities – not for their appearance.

Boo Boo's Mom on

Wow – this is certaintly the question of the lifetime for any parent. I have a 4 1/2 yr old daughter and I find myself wondering if I’m being parnoid, over protective, or simply just scared of all the crazies in the world. We live in a world where daycares are locked and parents are just watching everything. I agree that we have lost the ability to let kids be kids but I’d rather have my sweet, happy, inconnent 4 1/2 yr old then risk the alternative.

I don’t think this is something that as parent every goes away – as I child I ran everywhere but better come running when my Dad whistled me home. Today my sibilings & I are 43, 40 & 38 and I guarantee you if Gramma has our kids she is still asking where we are going, what we are doing, and what time we’ll be home. I am grateful that my parents still care enough to ask about my life and worry about me – even though I no longer live with them.

Don’t ever think it won’t happen to you or your kids. Set up “safe” rules so they always know it is OK. Let them ask questions and respond honestly. Love your kids and don’t forget to hug them.

Jen DC on

Here’s the thing: Things are actually *safer* than they used to be – we just have infinitely more information about it. As others have stated, you should worry less about the stranger (but still teach your children to do a gut check or not to wander off with one) than those you already know.

The “face check” including the “this is your area for safe play” is an excellent tactic because it lets your kids be kids, keeps them in contact with you but allows them a certain level of freedom. And you have to know your child. What can s/he be trusted to do? And go by your instincts. Otherwise, you’ve taken childhood away. You want them to fall down, hurt themselves a little, be brave in the woods with friends, get into petty childhood arguments, etc, because it teaches skills necessary to get along in the adult world such as independent and critical thinking. It lets kids set their own limits (in a limited venue).

Anyway – good luck, parents!

Naughty Cal on

I would recommend enrolling your kids in martial arts classes to learn basic self-defense. Obviously a toddler is not going to be able to fight off a full-grown adult, but starting at about 7-8, they can learn simple ways to escape being grabbed, and how and where to strike an abductor. I don’t care how big someone is; a well-placed shot to the eyes, knees, or groin is going to slow them down.

Karate is not a substitute for common sense and basic street smarts-kids shouldn’t be paranoid, but should know that there are bad people out there, and if someone tries to get you to go with them, you get the hell out of there. But martial arts or other self-defense training can mean the difference if it comes down to a critical situation involving an abduction.

Jillian on

Thanks again so much for your blog. I really hope you continue.

When I was a child, we use to play out in front and ride our bikes, play tag, cops and robbers until dark. We use to go to the park by ourselves at 13 with no fear. My daughter is very young now and can’t do any of these things on her own now, but even with my nephews I don’t allow them to do these things alone at the age I was allowed. I don’t know if its because things have changed or because I am more scared and protective and because of all of the fearful things we hear. I think we as parents and guardians and protectors want to do everything for the children and when we can’t it freaks us out a bit.

JM on

yeah i really don’t get where this mentality comes from that the world is more dangerous nowadays. there are just a lot more things we know nowadays, more things are documented and categorised. like someone else mentioned, if a child is abused it is much more likely to be someone they know. these things just weren’t reported as much in the past.

it’s kind of like saying that cigarettes are more dangerous now just because we know the dangers. the world hasn’t changed the information available to us has just changed. not to mention the media latches on to any story about child abduction because they know it gets them revenue. they overreport things and scare people in order to ensure they keep coming back. it can make it seem like danger lurks around every corner, when really it is just a sensationalising kind of news coverage.

so it’s not true that other generations grew up in some golden age.

as far as kids go, i think each case is different. i was walking to school by myself by the age of 6 and using public transport. no biggie at all, and everyone i know did the same thing. on the first day of primary school the parents dropped their kids off, and the teacher spoke to all parents and actively encouraged them to let their kids make their own way. and it worked. i was street smart, knew how to use public transport and about road safety. parents used common sense and encouraged us to stick together, walk with our friends, be aware of strangers etc.

when my brother was 8 a stranger tried to persuade him to get into his car. not only did my brother refuse and walk on, but he wrote down the guy’s number plate in his book.

my kids are still very young, but i agree, gut instinct and common sense are in some ways the best things you can encourage in your kids. go over things with them many times, over explain things. and then trust them and their instinct. make sure they know they can always ask or tell you anything, and don’t be too overprotective. in the long run you are not doing them any favours by not letting them play outside, or walk a couple of blocks by themselves.

linda ronson on

Totally agree… I wish I could let me kid just do whatever but it is a scary world!

Paige on


I also just wanted to thank you for bringing this issue up. This isn’t an issue I personally feel gets brought up enough and while I don’t think we should all necessarily live in fear, I do think it’s important to stay educated about these things. I got my Master’s in social work to help families of missing children; my daughter’s premature birth has put that dream on hold for now but I’m hopeful that someday I’ll get to help these families.

I’m just really glad you brought this subject up as I feel like it’s not something that gets talked about a whole lot so thank you!

amandamay on

we are also a family that talks about “gut” feelings – i agree that a child is more likely to be abused by someone they know (a neighbor, relative, coach etc) i make it clear to my son (now 8) that no matter what, he can ALWAYS tell me if someone has done something to him (the old “don’t tell your mom or i’ll kill you/no one will believe you” etc stuff).

also, i’ve taught him that if someone DID try to take him in their car or whatnot, he should fight back (i read once that kids feel timid, like they shouldn’t hurt someone even if they are being taken because they are taught to inherently respect adults) so i taught him to “not be nice” in that sort of situation – basically: scream, dig nails in, kick, hit – whatever it takes. that might sound a bit intense, but in all the years discussing this sort of thing, i’ve never made it scary, just matter-of-fact.

we also have done play-acting of scenarios that commonly get kids to wander off with a stranger (“can you help me find my lost puppy”, “i’ve got some candy over here”) and practice what to do in those scenarios.

my son is also a “mayor” 🙂 he says hi to EVERYONE and wants to chat with anyone who will listen. it definitely freaked me out when he was easton’s age because his whole line of thinking was “if i ask him his name, he isn’t a stranger” and i thought he would easily walk off with someone who was friendly to him.

however, now that he is 8, this is the most marvelous quality for a child to have. he makes friends everywhere we go. people love to be around him, because he has such a warm, engaging, energetic personality. i really think that as an adult this will be one of his strongest/best/most useful qualities. my point? foster and appreciate easton’s open, happy spirit. it might be a bit frightening now, but what a great quality to have for the rest of her life 🙂

fuzibuni on

Despite what the media says, we live in a VERY safe society, with some of the lowest child mortality rates in the history of time. I used to work in broadcast news, and can tell you that scary stories are milked to get ratings.

Here are some statistics to put things in perspective:

Number of children in the United States under 15: approx 63 MILLION

Number under age 15 that are killed annually from:
Car accidents: 3,000
Asthma: 300
Influenza: 115
Kidnapping by a stranger: 10-15

Although movies and the news may make it feel like someone is lurking around every corner to snatch your child away, the reality is that there is less than a 1 in 4 million chance of being fatally abducted by a stranger.

As a parent, you want to make everything as safe as possible for your children, but sometimes you can end up restricting your child’s growth and future happiness because of your own heightened sense of fear. Teach your child common sense, and then RELAX. Things are going to be okay.

mommytoane on

Teach her to trust herself. Kids have an amazing ability to detect someone who isnt good….and tend to shy away from that person. When it came to getting lost in a store, Stranger Danger was the LAST thing I wanted to teach my daughter. Plus with all the fake security guards kidnapping kids….I didnt want her to put all her faith into mall security and end up disappointed. SO I taught her to find a mom. Go up to any woman with kids, that looks safe, and tell her “I’m lost, can you help me find my mom”….and I do this because a woman, particularly a mom, is more likely to stay calm, and stay with the child until the parents arrive.

I dont want to teach that all strangers are bad. Because thinking about it, ALL our new friends start out as strangers. Instead I teach my daughter to listen to whats inside. If something says *no this person is bad* go the other way. Trust me. If your daughter is around someone she dosent trust for some reason, it will show. Even a social butterfly has standards.

Janine @ Alternative Housewife on

The idea that a child smiling at a stranger in public is enough to get them hurt is sad and overly alarmist. In truth, we know that most abusers are PEOPLE WE ALREADY KNOW, often family, not strangers. If more kids were friendly and showed their personalities (and were allowed to do so), maybe we would find missing kids faster – People would more vividly remember seeing them. I also suspect that if children were more confident and less afraid, they would be better equipped to follow their guts and make a scene if something was off.

MaliasMom on

I live in a very small town in a rural area and decided to move here BECAUSE I felt very uncomfortable living with my daughter in the city. As a single mom, I have the most amazing support system in this little town, a group of moms with kids all around the same age. We look out for one another’s children and make sure that every child has a safe place to go to play or, to stay until mom is home.

I work 20 mins from home and my neighbor (and close friend) watches my daughter from the time she gets off the bus until I get home (usually about half an hour later). My best friend lives 5 houses down and my little one has been known to walk to her “auntie’s” house if she misses the bus in the morning to get a ride, or if she sees my car there when she gets off the bus.

We teach our children about strangers and following that instinct, but we let them be free to be kids. It’s really all about balance.

just another mom on

I dont know either but most often in life teaching a child stranger danger isnt the best thing in the course of a persons life and even the most horrible of things that can happen to someone are by majority done by someone we know,our families know and are already in our lives, stranger danger not only creates fear but also a false safety net because it leads children to believe only someone they dont know will hurt them.

i teach my kids in the “ut oh feeling” if something happens whether it seems big or small if it makes them feel ut oh they are to tell me,their father or another trusted adult. as a parent you always worry and you go above and beyond in trying to keep you child safe but at the same time you want them to meet new people and be exposed to different opinions and ways of living…and if you open that window even just a smidge you have already made yourself vulnerable so I personally have tried to give my kids room to explore life but also minimize certain things that are risk factors for people.

Yikes on

Children do NOT understand what a “stranger”. To them, everything is concrete. If you show a child a book about “strangers”, they will look for that exact person. Stranger is too abstract for young children.

I believe everything in this world is too sensationalized. The fact is, most child molesters are people you and your child know and trust, not some random guy at the playground.

I try not tell scare my children with all this media sensationalism, but I do tell them that if they ever become separated, they should find another mom with kids and tell her they are lost.

Megan on

It’s important to remember that people who’ll harm your kid usually don’t look like the boogey man. And most little kids don’t have the common sense or life experience to truly discern friendly, harmless stranger vs friendly stranger who’s using that charm to lead you into harm. Better safe than sorry

Kate on

This is a very interesting topic and one that I worry about quite a bit. While fuzibuni has some good points, it’s also important to remember that as many as 1 in 4 women will be sexually abused or assaulted in some way in her lifetime.

It is a tricky thing to navigate, keeping your child safe, encouraging them to speak up and/or retreat when they are uncomfortable, and still having them learn normal behavior and manners.

I find myself trying to force my girl to smile at people when they are being nice to her, but while that might make someone in the grocery store feel nice for a moment, is it really teaching her something that will be detrimental to her safety?

The book Half the Sky talks about how often girls and women get trapped in terrible situations simply because they are afraid to do something different for a variety of reasons. And that if women could just be empowered to speak up and not just take whatever, then there would be less rape, less abductions, less human trafficking etc.

Jenna on

I just want to point out that the majority of children who are abducted, abused, sexually assaulted, etc KNOW the person who did it! Just do the research. Most commonly it is not a stranger that harms a child, it is a parent, family memember, family friend, neighbor, etc. I think we can teach our children that you should be friendly to people and not be scared, but to be careful! If they are with their parent, what is wrong with smiling and saying hi to someone? They should just know what to do if they are approached by someone they don’t know and nobody is around.

Kat on

It is sad how nervous we have to be with our children. I had a kindergarten age child lean on me on the subway this weekend, and I didn’t think much of it (bored tired kid). But the startled ‘you don’t know that lady’ from his mother reminded me of just how an average person can still be scary when your child is involved.

Kristy on

My daughter is 2 and is also very friendly. This is very scary for me as she is eager to approach strangers and engage them in conversation. While I don’t want to discourage her outgoing personality, I really want to teach my daughter to trust her instincts when it comes to interacting with people she doesn’t know.

Several months ago we were driving and came to stoplight. There was a very sad looking young man sitting at the corner in a wheelchair that had obviously be in some face disfiguring accident. He was the type of person society looks away from. I heard these little sounds from my backseat. When I turned around my daughter was blowing this young man kisses. It was such a sweet gesture. I’m not even sure if he saw her. I am still touched by her desire to give comfort to a stranger that was clearly in need of some kindness. No matter how much I want to protect her, I don’t ever want to discourage her desire to connect with people.

Charles on

I’m a huge follower of FreeRangeKids.com and Lenore’s take on raising kids nowadays. Don’t give in to the fear! This country is a lot safer per capita than it was even 20 years ago, but every negative incident gets not only sensationalized, but spreads like wildfire thanks to the internet. Get to know the people around you, and put a little trust in humanity. Also, please don’t forget about innocent until proven guilty.