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Are You a Paranoid Parent?

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Dr. Janet Taylor appeared on the "Today" show this morning to discuss this very topic.

paranoid nervous worried mom

An article in the New York Times over the weekend has generated a lot of conversation.

The gist of the story was how sensational news stories, like the recent, tragic Jaycee Dugard case, may contribute to an increase in 'paranoid parenting.' Some of you may know what I mean. No babysitter is safe enough, your in-laws or even your own parents don't have enough experience for your child, and you don't trust how your fellow carpoolers drive. The end result is that you pick up and drop off your child from school and will not let them walk to a playdate that is two houses down from yours unaccompanied (and they are 15).

What gives ... when did parents become so protective? And are you one of them? Do you find yourself denying your child the opportunity to participate in an activity or playdate because of your own fears that may be irrational?

Instead of letting your child ride with others, friends, and their parents, you drive them to the same party "just in case." When other kids are walking in a group for Halloween, going door to door trick-or-treating, you drive yours in a car, "just in case."

I understand. To be a parent in many ways requires a badge of paranoia and sense of hyperalertness.

When it comes to your child's safety, however, stranger abductions are very rare. There are over sixty million children under the age of 15 in the United States. Federal statistics indicate that there were 115 stranger abductions last year and, by comparison, 250,000 were injured in car accidents. So our kids are relatively safe from strangers. Our bigger worries should be exposure to second-hand smoke, not buckling up in a car, and/or not wearing a bike helmet.

How we parent is largely based on how we were raised and the extent of our current fears. It is critical not to pass on our own unwarranted anxieties to our children.

Parenting is best done from a base of love, not fear. A healthy sense of fear can be beneficial, but be mindful of the difference between a real versus a perceived threat. You can also use recent media examples or concerns that your children may bring up to talk about "what if" scenarios, and how to stay safe.

next: Do You Let Your Kids Walk to School?
4 comments so far | Post a comment now
naomi September 15, 2009, 3:52 PM

yeah but i don’t want to be part of that 115!!! one missing child is enough to be on the paranoid side for me thank you. and i’m just as paranoid about car accidents, etc.

Rachelle September 15, 2009, 10:34 PM

The problem with the statistic given, is that there are so many more dangers out there than abduction! There are bad people wherever you go. When my son gets older (I’m not sure how old that is yet), then he will be able to venture out further & further, but for now (he’s three), he is staying right by my side. I take him to preschool & pick him up. He plays in the FENCED, BACK yard. He is not allowed out front without parental supervision. The one thing I really do, that I know is over the top, is booby-trap his window if we have them open at night. I don’t even know that it would work, but I have to do something to put my mind at ease. If we sleep with the windows open, I will put some of my son’s toys in the window. Ones that either have sirens, or roar, or ones that will fall over easily. Then I place a few items precariously beneath the window. I have to do it, because it freaks me out to leave the window in his bedroom open. I feel I’m just inviting someone in. So I set up the toys, and listen for any noises through the night on his monitor. It’s painful to have to live in fear that way. If he asks what I’m doing, I’ll make excuses like, I’m just straightening up some of his things, and they look nice there. That or something equally as lame.

ame i. September 16, 2009, 12:55 PM

I’m not paranoid but I am cautious. My girls are 9 & 11. I prefer them to ride their bikes in our cove and in the cove across from our home. They want to ride down a longer road but it makes me nervous even if I am outside watching. My 11 year old is 5’3” & 120 pounds but my 9 year old just hit 80 pounds. If someone decided to snatch her off her bike & toss her into a car, there’s no way I could get to her in time so it’s cove-only if I’m not writing with them.

Rita October 31, 2009, 4:45 PM

Wow. I hope your children know when to cut the apron strings.

Yes, I am a parent. We have walkie-talkies, we talk about stranger danger, etc. I know enough to keep an eye on them too.

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