I don’t know about you but in a world full of bad news I find it easy to over protect my kids. That’s part of our responsibility as parents – protecting and setting boundaries around our children. The statistics of abuse are constantly screaming at us. We don’t want the next tragic story to be our kids.
I have to admit one of the draws of homeschool for me is constant access to my children. I don’t have to wonder if someone is taking advantage of my son in a school locker room.
And while that fear of other adults taking advantage of our kids should be a very real consideration I don’t think it should become a motivation.
Suspicion isn’t something we want to teach our kids. Caution perhaps, wise evaluation, but not to be suspicious of everyone.
If I’m honest I need my kids to have the godly influence of other adults in their lives. Kids need community too. They need to see unique men and women approach life from different perspectives and experiences. I want them to ask questions of, laugh with, and even at times confide in other mature adults. The grace of Jesus takes on new depth when seen through another person’s story.
So how do we lose the fear and embrace community?
1. Set boundaries. I think we can alleviate our fears by maintaining certain boundaries. I don’t allow my children, who are six and ten, to sleep over at anyone’s house that is not family or that I don’t know very well or have a history of trust with. Allow conversations and interaction with adults to happen with your children during preset boundaries and in less intimate or private circumstances.
A sleep over is not necessary to build a relationship, but a trip to Dairy Queen – a public setting for a brief period of time, is completely reasonable. Of course the older and more mature a child is there’s less need for strict boundaries and more room for involved guidance in those relationships.
Any adult who seeks or pushes for unlimited, private access to your kids should be viewed with caution.
2. Listen to your child. Sometimes connections happen naturally and your child will feel an immediate friendship to an adult. Maybe it’s their personality or life experience, whatever it is your child just likes them. If they appear to be a good influence and responsible let the relationship take shape. Remember they don’t have to be perfect, and you may not even connect with them yourself.
That being said if your child is resistant to an adult listen to that as well. You may know the ‘perfect’ mentor for them with a good reputation who says all the right things. But if your child is uncomfortable or resistant don’t push.
3. Bring the relationships home. Encourage adults to spend time with your family. Maybe it’s a young college student your kids love. Have them over for pizza and a game night. Or maybe a senior citizen has shown interest in your kids. Invite them to join you for a holiday celebration with your family.
Having adults in your home allows you a chance to observe how your child and their adult friend interact. If there are manners or behaviors you need to address with your child you can see that right away. It also allows you to connect with the adult so that you can be partners in your child’s life. If an older child is being mentored by an adult you trust never ask them to break confidence, but do partner together to talk about ways to help or encourage your child.
I had some amazing adults in my life as I was growing up. Couples who invested in my siblings and me, women who nurtured my heart. My relationship with my parents was overall a very good one, with the occasional bumpy season, but I still benefited from godly adults speaking into my life.
I could make a list of people from early childhood through the first years of marriage who wove meaning and truth into my life. Grateful doesn’t describe it. I want the same for my kids. And I’m happy to say I see that happening. (Big shout out to Miss Kathy, Miss Amanda, Nathan C., and Chris S.!)
Instead of seeing a predator behind every bush we can set healthy boundaries in our family and encourage mature adults to positively influence our kids. We will all be the richer for it!