Sunday, May 02, 2010

Stranger Danger

How do you teach the concept of "stranger danger" to the most extroverted child on the planet? Everyone Evan meets is his friend, or at the very least someone with whom he's eager to strike up a conversation. This is one of the most endearing things about his personality, and we certainly don't want to squelch his social nature, but a few boundaries wouldn't hurt.

A few weeks ago, Evan independently made his first neighborhood friend. The neighbors we share a fence with have four kids and the family behind them have six. They are always out in our neighbor's yard playing and having a blast. We've met and spent some time with both sets of parents, but most of the kids are much older than Evan. There are two boys though, who are close to Evan's age. One day we were outside while they were playing, and Evan looked over longingly, and I knew he wanted to be in on the fun. So, I asked him if he wanted to go talk to the boys. We walked over to the fence and got their attention, and Evan took it from there.

Now all he can talk about is playing with the neighbors and every child he sees in the neighborhood is there to play with him, regardless of age or gender. We've been trying to teach him social etiquette, but how do you explain to an uber friendly 3 1/2 year old that the 12 y/o girls next door probably aren't all that interested in playing with him? Without stealing his joy?

And then there's adults! Between our House Church and families, Evan has always been around adults who love him and enjoy playing with him. But if our neighbor is out mowing, he doesn't necessarily want to be bothered with one of Evan's stories. And if we're at the park, and we pass complete strangers on a trail, it's not always appropriate to stop and chat. Not to mention the real cause for worry behind "stranger danger." You can't really discern between the nice strangers and the scary ones. For the safety of my first-born and my own parental paranoia, I'd rather him assume all strangers are scary. But that goes against his entire personality, not to mention what we teach him about the life and character of Jesus.

We're still feeling our way through this one. My first priority is that he learns the lessons needed in order to stay safe, but I'd like to do it without stealing all his joy!

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