Parents Asked to Write Wrenching Notes to Their Kids

Hi Readers! Once again, one of you alerted me to a phenom I was completely unaware of: Schools are asking parents to write letters for their kids’ emergency packs, in case they are separated…perhaps forever.
 
It certainly sounds like a wrenching exercise for the parents, one that — per usual these days  – forces us to imagine the very worst, saddest case scenario and proceed as if it’s likely enough to happen. It’s what I call “worst-first thinking,” and it’s the way we are being TRAINED to think about our kids. Think of the advice columnist who suggested we always take a photo of our kids before we go anywhere with them. It could be OUR LAST PHOTO! The one we give to the cops! And now there’s a product on the market to take an impression of our kids’ teeth. Guess why!
 
It’s exactly this “I may never see them again!” mentality that is making parents so terrified to let their kids go anywhere, even around the corner. So when I got this mom’s letter, below, I felt the phenom she’s describing is worth probing: Why are schools suddenly requiring this kind of parental note? And what is it doing to us all? – L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: The whole worst-first-helicopter-parenting movement has taken a new turn for the morbid.  I just read a blog post at Swistle describing a request from her school for a “reassuring note” to pack in the child’s emergency preparedness kit.  The blogger says:

One particularly wrenching thought was that if it’s a big emergency, this could be THE LAST COMMUNICATION YOUR CHILD EVER GETS FROM YOU. This is too much pressure for a note, I think we can agree on that. This just BEGS parents to start making lengthy, sobbing lists of everything they would want to tell their child if this was their last chance, and I think we can further agree that the resulting note is not going to be reassuring to a child.

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I have a lot of thoughts about this…  First of all, that if there is time for the reading of lengthy tear-stained notes from parents, it’s probably NOT an emergency.  Secondly, I have actually written this kind of letter.
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When I was pregnant with my first child I suffered from a rip-roaring case of perinatal anxiety and mood disorder.  I was absolutely certain that I was going to die in childbirth.  My anxiety got worse and worse as I got closer to my due date.  Finally, in the last week of my pregnancy when I was on bed rest (a sure sign that I was going to die, right?), I wrote my husband a letter with my final wishes (“Don’t tell the baby I died in childbirth, I don’t want her to bear that burden”), and thoughts, (“Thanks for a wonderful, if tragically short, life”), and sent it to his best friend to give to him when (not if, when) I died.
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That baby is a seven year old first grader now, and I have learned to manage my anxiety in a much healthier manner.  Yay Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and yay Zoloft!
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Anyway, what struck me is that the schools asking for these letters want the parents of their students to behave like mentally ill people.
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Mentally ill people, people who can’t control their crippling anxiety, people who need psychoactive medication to function, write these letters.  Not sane, rational, thinking parents.  Certainly not sane, rational, thinking school administrators!
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Now that I am better, and my anxiety is being controlled rather than controlling me, I refuse to parent as though I am still crippled by anxiety. –  Amy Austin, blogger at Pretty Babies.
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Lenore here: I wrote Amy back, thanking her for this great note and she wrote back something so cheering, I have to share it, too: 
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In brighter news (wrote Amy), I am planning a summer day camp for the kids in my neighborhood because I read about the idea here. Meantime,  I’m president of a fledgling neighborhood association, and I’ve offered my home as a safe place for all the kids in our ‘hood (of 100 households) to come if they get home from school and no one is home (for the little ones), or if they get home and they’re scared of severe weather, or if they need help with homework…  I was a teacher and my husband is a rocket scientist, so it’s not just help – it’s GOOD help.  :)  At any given time I usually have between 6 and a dozen kids in my yard who don’t belong to me.  I call myself the neighborhood KoolAid mom.  (Not organic, sugar free, free range juice mom, just good old KoolAid.  :-) )
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I’ve come a LONG way from that terrified pregnant woman, and a great deal of it is because of Free-Range Kids, so thanks. – Amy

Why are we being encouraged to think the saddest thoughts of all?

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