Help Needed: A Mom Can’t Get Predators Out of Her Mind

Hi yztfesedhe
Folks! I don’t think this mom is the only one out there with this issue. – L. 
Dear Free-Range Kids: I’m writing to you in the hope of some Free-Range Kids help.  Help in what way, I don’t know. Some words of wisdom?
You see I’m starting to doubt my free range kids thinking.  I think I’m starting to give in to the media’s portrayal of an unsafe world out there for our kids.
Even as I write that I don’t really believe that.  I don’t want to believe it.
But I’ve just read 2 (more) dreadful stories of 2 kids who were viciously attacked. One was attacked as he was playing outdoors and the other was while she was walking home from school after travelling on the school bus by herself.
I try not to listen to, or read the news.  I tell myself that I know it’s a horrific thing that has happened but it’s not happening all the time, everywhere.
For me it’s particularly hard when it’s news stories about kids who are just being kids – playing in the neighborhood or being independent and travelling home from school by themselves.
I have even started to doubt the type of work I do.  I work with parents and school communities to encourage their kids to walk or cycle to school instead of being driven everywhere.  I promote children’s independence and a safe and connected community.
But now it seems that story after story, month after month, the media is wearing me down.  I’ve got a little girl heading into primary school next year. And today all I can think about is how I’m going to make sure she is dropped off and picked up from school every day until she is 18 years old! I don’t want to be that parent.  I’m not that parent!
It breaks my heart to think these parents were probably doing what anyone of us would do.  Letting their kids have free range to play in the neighborhood or walk home by themselves.
What do you think?  What do I do? How do I process this without closing the door on a Free-Range lifestyle for my child?
Hi Tara — Lenore here: My advice is simple. It’s to replace the “What if?” s with reality. And the only way to do that is by taking action.
Your child is too young to do a whole lot by herself, but she can do some things. Maybe play outside on the lawn with a friend, or head a couple of houses over to knock on a pal’s door for a playdate. In other times and eras, kids would start going to the local bakery at age 3 and proudly head home with that day’s loaf of bread. Even today there is a special fare on public transit in Japan for kids traveling solo UNDER age 6. I mention these because in OUR society the only time we hear about kids doing anything on their own is when they end up horrifically harmed. It really skews the picture.
But the more that you see how happy and confident your child can be in the real world, the less that world looks monstrous and the more it looks marvelous. Inside our heads — mine, too – terrible things can always materialize, especially when fertilized by our fear-sowing society. Simply reading about the odds, which are astronomically in our children’s favor, doesn’t seem to do the trick. So if you can push yourself to let your child be part of these extraordinary times, you and she will reap the benefit. – L.

55 Responses to Help Needed: A Mom Can’t Get Predators Out of Her Mind

  1. Warren December 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm #


    Lenore is spot on. Small steps for a small child. With time, guidance, support and love your child will grow. She will in her own way tell you what she is ready to do, and not do.

    She is going to surprise you with what she is capable of, and will want to do. In my opinion, one of the most important things is to let them think for themselves. Get their feedback, see how they see things. It will be an eye opener.

  2. Catherine Lavallee December 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Hi there,

    I think Lenore gave you great advice. I would only add that if you find yourself doubting your (correct) belief system, try and remember that the media wants you to be scared and they want you to raise your child to be dependent on others and to feel unsafe on their own.

    There is a reason why the media is wearing on us all. When I hear stories like this I remind myself that the stories are rare and I feel cynical that the media is once again promoting fear.

    God bless, and thank you for the good work that you do! STAY STRONG! You are an inspiration. 🙂

  3. Jill December 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Tara – I think first you need to know that even the FBI says that there is less than 1% chance that your child will be abducted and abused by a stranger. More than 95% of child sex abuse is at the hands of a family member, close family friend or trusted acquaintance. The media loves the fact that those headlines increase their ratings.

    In my opinion, we all need to get out and get to know our neighbors and our communities so that hopefully we can count on each other to keep an eye on our neighborhoods and communities as a whole.

  4. Paul R. Welke December 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    It’s absolutely the right reaction to be horrified by these stories.
    The thing is, while we notice them more, we must realize that the media is getting better and better at getting this information out to us. The thing is, the media, for the most part, doesn’t report on positive outcomes. Never will you hear an anchor say, “Ten year old girl takes her eight year old brother to the park. Story at eleven.” Those stories you hear are the most horrifying and bad things that can happen to a child. But they won’t. You can effectively round down to zero the amount of times that something like this will happen to your kids or the kids of someone that you know.
    I don’t even watch the news anymore. I just got tired of the sensationalism and negativity. That isn’t to say that I don’t keep myself informed, merely that I’ve found better ways to do it. Following the “Free Range Kids” blog is one of many that I’ve found.

  5. Donald December 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm #


    That’s outstanding that you’re asking these questions! Many people aren’t strong enough to do so. It’s also a great example how people can become slaves to their own emotions. (which is common) You’re having your own internal battles on it. It is exhausting and can sometimes feel so overwhelming that you start to wonder if the battle is lost!

    You’re standing up against some of the automatic programming that you have learned. Much of brain is made up from millions of automatic programs. It was difficult at first when you started driving a car. Now you do it without thinking. A lifetime supply of fear mongering has attached itself to your motherly need to protect your children.

    I don’t know of any quick solution. However I would like to say how awesome it is that you’re questioning it. It’s easy to go with the masses like a sheep. You’re much stronger than you think you are. You certainly don’t like all the fear in yourself and you’re trying to refrain from passing it on to your kids.

  6. linvo December 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    And there are things you can do to protect your child too. By giving them the skills to spot dangerous situations and the skills to protect themselves from those. There are examples of cases of child abduction by strangers where it is known that the kids went with the predator without putting up a fight. You can teach your child to never go with strangers, to kick, punch and especially scream if anyone tries to force them to go with them, to never go close to a stranger in a car and to ask an adult for help if they feel threatened. We role-play this occasionally at our house. We go through the most common scenarios (eg. man in car stopping to ask for help finding his lost puppy) and it makes my daughter feel empowered. I weep for kids who are being taught that all strangers are dangerous without ever being given any strategies on how to protect themselves. At our house we do talk openly about those rare cases when kids got harmed. I stress that people evil enough to harm kids deliberately are extremely rare. And then we go over what to do if my daughter would ever have the incredible misfortune to meet one of them.

    Educating your kids on how to be street smart is important.

  7. Smatsy December 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I wonder if a lot of the fear you are feeling has less to do with your own parenting choices and more to do with the responsibility of being an advocate for certain behaviors to your larger community.

    I think those of us in roles like that tend to have moments where we freeze and think, “WHAT IF I’M WRONG?” It takes a lot of guts to “sell” people on an ideology and I think that comes with a big weight and stress. Give yourself the space to feel this and think critically about the situation (which you are obviously doing).

  8. DJ December 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I had a bad moment myself a few weeks ago. I let my kids (11 and 9) play in the neighborhood park all the time.

    Then, I saw a FB post about a 13 or 14 year old girl missing in my town. Then a link to the details with the address where she was last seen — the apartment complex right next to my neighborhood. Right near that same park. Then, we got an automated phone call from the police about the missing girl.

    Nothing in this particular situation was blown out of proportion or sensationalized. The police calls only went to nearby neighborhoods. The FB post was from the mother and shared by local friends. But, because of what has been put in my head from other stories made me start to worry, even to panic a bit. Should I let my kids go to the park? Should I let them wait at the bus stop down the street alone? OMG this was in my little suburban town!

    What did I do? I just kept having little talks with myself, mostly about the fact that I didn’t know the whole story on this girl. I made myself walk through all the other possible scenarios that were just as (if not more) likely. A dad wasn’t mentioned on FB — maybe there was a custody issue. She’s a teenager — maybe she had a fight with mom and took off. Maybe the mom is paranoid and panics if daughter doesn’t answer her cell phone for an hour. I just kept reminding myself that if those things were true, then making my kids home bound would be detrimental to them — that I would be reacting to a perceived rather than a real threat.

    The other thing I did was just a checkup conversation with each of my own kids about the rules for the bus stop and park and how to respond if someone creeped them out or tried something. And that reassured me that they would do their best to take care of themselves.

    I also remind myself that there are tons of stories out there about women being murdered and raped, but that doesn’t keep me locked in the house. It does make me mindful about going to particular locations late at night, about being aware of my surroundings, etc. Same for my kids — it’s not okay to go to the park alone after dark at their age, but we can go for a night walk as a group.

    Think about the safety mechanisms you do have in place. You aren’t just going to send your child willy-nilly into the world unprepared. Buddy systems, memorizing phone numbers etc.

    Brain dump there, I know. Keep working on it and keep reaching out to like minded parents, like this group.

  9. alohacarmel December 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi Tara,

    About 9 years ago I lost my first-born child when she was five years old. She wasnt kidnapped or attacked or assaulted by a stranger. She was killed in an auto accident along with my husbands mother and aunt. They were driving home from a visit to family. There was no other car involved, no foul play or drunk driving….we dont even know what happened. The SUV just went off the road and flipped about 5 times, killing them all.

    I share this with you, not to shock, but to let you know that sometimes bad things happen to people who think they are doing everything right. Even after the terrible pain of this loss, I still know that i cannot move through this world in fear…..or let my children learn to move through it fear either.

    I have two sons now, ages 5 and 9…..they play outside by themselves, my oldest goes to the library alone and watches his little brother alone in the house for small increments if I have to run to the corner store. We live in Hawaii and I let them play in the heavy surf, even though it makes my brow sweat….

    I wont live in fear, because I might spend the rest of life doing so only to lose everything that matters to me anyway. Thats just reality.

    The ONLY thing you have control over is your ability to give in to your fear. Dont.


  10. MITBeta December 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm #


  11. Violet December 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    We fear what we see and hear about. As a criminal defense attorney, I worry that the thug-cop will arrest or taser my 13-year-old for acting like a normal boy at school, and getting into mischief.

  12. linvo December 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    @alohacarmel: I’m so sorry for your loss and thankyou so much for sharing this story.

    To those whose advice is to simply stop watching the news… I do agree that the constant repetitions of these events on the news are not healthy for anyone to watch. But sticking your head in the sand is never a good strategy for anything. Being brave is to confront your fears, not to just try ignore them. So it is good to be aware that stranger abductions do occur and to know that they are extremely rare and way less likely than some other dangers that we all readily accept. And as I mentioned above, you can also put some strategies in place that make you feel more confident that the danger is even further decreased, like teaching your child how to protect themselves.

  13. Jessika December 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    There’s a special fare on public transportation for children here, too. Children and youth pay highly reduced prices until age 18. One can argue that I live in a small country,(thus safer) yet stranger danger is infusing the media here as well. Not as bad as it can be in the USA but still. Stories involving children is always emphasised, whereupon parents freak out.

  14. AW13 December 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm #


    I know exactly how you feel. I live in Iowa. Last summer, two girls, ages 8 and 10, went missing. This week deer season started, and some hunters found their bodies in the woods. This didn’t happen anywhere near where we live, but of course, it has been a topic of conversation. I suspect that the kidnapper was someone that the girls knew – how else would someone be able to get two girls at the same time – then my mom pointed that a stun gun was used on Jaycee Duggard. And I know, and I know, and I know, again, that her case is RARE. I know that. And yet, I still get scared.

    It’s hard to defeat the programming of a lifetime, as someone earlier in the comments pointed out. But it is necessary to do this – defeating this fear and reclaiming childhood independence is imperative. So I talk to my son about never going anywhere with strangers, about where he can and cannot ride his bike when he’s alone and as he gets older, we’ll talk about these things, and others, more.

    And I’ll still worry. Part of this is my personality, part of this is because I’m a parent. I suppose I always will. Whether or not I worry isn’t the issue, though: my son’s growing independence and maturity is the issue and as long as I don’t let my worrying impact my son’s options unnecessarily, then I think we’re doing ok.

    You’re doing the right thing here. Stand strong.

  15. mollie December 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    I meditate on how many fewer kids come to violent ends, or death at all, compared to 100 years ago. We have come to a place where we have a motto of “one child dead is too many.”

    Death was a part of life until about 50 or 60 years ago, when we decided to make up a whole new system that created an illusion of control over death. Now every death is a “tragedy,” even that of a 98-year-old woman who lived life fully and went to a dance class on her last day, then died in her sleep! If you call that a tragedy, I guess we have to redefine the word.

    My daughter asked today if I would be sad if she died. “What do you think?” I asked. “Yes,” she said and smiled. We all want to know we’re important to others. But telling our kids that we must supervise them constantly doesn’t send a message that they are valued and important, it sends a message that we simply can’t cope without them, and that’s a pretty heavy burden.

    We have more cars and less wild-card infections and disease. Less death and less acceptance of death. There was probably a sweet spot there somewhere in the early 60s when parents were grateful for the advances in safety, and still accepting of the realities of death being part of life.

    I’ve made my peace with death. I suggest that folks work toward that, instead of trying to avoid it at all costs.

  16. Gina December 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    I feel the same way you do. My kids are grown so I didn’t have FRK to help me in the days when they were little. I doubted my choices a lot of the time, but in the long run, if I were to change anything, it would be to have been even MORE free range than I was. My kids were born right after Adam Walsh and Etan Patz went missing….Suddenly “stranger danger” was the “disease of the week”.
    One thing that helped me was to think about the other 10 million or so children who were doing the same thing or something similar at the same time and did NOT get abducted by a stranger.
    It’s good to reassess our decisions from time to time…to make sure they are still good choices. Be reassured, you are doing the right thing and it will be good for your kids.

  17. Taradlion December 7, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    I ask myself, “what are you afraid of?”… And, before I allow myself to answer “pediphiles” or “kidnappers” or even “traffic” … I list what I am most afraid of: “that my child will be incapable of functioning in the world”, “my child will be fearful and paranoid, rather than confident and empowered”… “that my children miss out on life’s joys because I have attempted to reduce or eliminate risk”…

    I try to remember that it is very unlikely that something terrible will happen to my children if I give them age appropriate freedom and teach them to be prepared and to assess risk, but is almost certain that without independence they will be incompetent and completely dependent.

    I also will tell you what I told the commenter months ago that said “google Leiby Kletsky to see what happens when you let a child walk home alone in NYC”….that is: “google my daughter’s name, you will see what USUALLY happens when kids walk home from school in NYC….nothing”

    -another Tara

  18. AndreaLynnette December 7, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    I suggest you look at this link: if you don’t trust a link, go to YouTube and look up “Daily flights world map” and watch that. That’s all the flights that take off and land safely, every single day. Does the news report all the safe landings? Of course not, that’s not news. They only report the crashes. A few minutes of web searching tells me that there are some 90,000 flights per day, every day, for a total of 32,850,000 with roughly 25 crashes PER YEAR. It’s a percentage so small that your calculator probably can’t give you the number.

    The question is, of course, what do planes have to do with kids? Everything. Those terrible stories about children being hurt, killed, abducted, etc. are the plane crashes. The odds of your child being seriously injured or killed or kidnapped by a stranger are so amazingly rare as to be incalculable, just like the plane crashes.

    There are billions of children in the world. They interact with the billions of other children and adults on this planet every day, and of those billions and billions of interactions, only rarely is a child hurt in any way.

  19. Abe December 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    News stories about horrible things that happen to kids, lifetime movies, true crime shows (SVU), and fearmongering Gossips: all mind poison. They spin stories to horrify and leave you reeling, up at all hours worrying. Don’t take the poison. Find something real and positive to fill your time and refill your energy.

  20. Yan Seiner December 7, 2012 at 11:37 pm #


    A question: Is your concern for your children or for yourself?

    I ask because often I read and hear “If anything happened to my children I could not live with myself”. The overprotectiveness has nothing to do with the children, but rather all with our own fear of living with our hurt and guilt.

    With that out of the way, I have nightmares about losing my children. One in particular, one that used to repeat a lot, about my son falling off a hiking trail to his death. I had to really get myself over the graphic details…. I still hike with my kids. I will not give in to irrational fears. I tell them about my fears openly. It helps me see my own fears for what they are, fears and not reality.

    You’re raising adults, not children. Talk to your girl about your fears openly, and most likely she will laugh and tell you that you’re being silly. Ask her what she wants to do. Treat her as an individual, and see the world through her eyes.

    Go watch “Home Alone”. Remember the crazy neighbor who killed his whole family? Really he was just a lonely old man, and it’s our own fears that created the whole fairy tale.

  21. ifsogirl December 8, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Thought I would share my Free Range Kids story. I have been trying to get my uptight mother to relax and start letting my kids grow up and learn independance. She’s always said nothing is going to happen to those kids on my watch.

    The other day they were out in the mall and my 8y/o had to go to the bathroom. They were sitting in the food court so my mom let her go by herself. She could see straight down the hallway to the bathroom and even had clear sight of the doorway. Her friends thought she was crazy to be letting my daughter go by herself.

    Well a few minutes later my lovely child came back, hands washed and all smiles. My mother was really glad she let go a little and that she got to see how proud her grandaughter was of herself

  22. ifsogirl December 8, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Thought I would share my Free Range Kids story. I have been trying to get my uptight mother to relax and start letting my kids grow up and learn independance. She’s always said nothing is going to happen to those kids on my watch.

    The other day they were out in the mall and my 8y/o had to go to the bathroom. They were sitting in the food court so my mom let her go by herself. She could see straight down the hallway to the bathroom and even had clear sight of the doorway. Her friends thought she was crazy to be letting my daughter go by herself.

    Well a few minutes later my lovely child came back, hands washed and all smiles. My mother was really glad she let go a little and that she got to see how proud her grandaughter was of herself

  23. linvo December 8, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    @Yan. “A question: Is your concern for your children or for yourself?

    I ask because often I read and hear “If anything happened to my children I could not live with myself”. The overprotectiveness has nothing to do with the children, but rather all with our own fear of living with our hurt and guilt.”

    I totally agree with this. And also with whoever said before that being an advocate for FRK puts thoughts in your head of “If something happens, everyone will say ‘I told you so'”.

    I think we have all probably struggled with these thoughts at some stage. And it does take some strength to pull your brain back in line and focus on what really matters.

  24. JP December 8, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    To the commentor who used the illustration of commercial flights as an example of preceived risk:
    On a daily basis –
    One thousandth of one per cent would give you exactly one crash – that is the likelihood of risk.
    Yet if someone decides that countless billionths of the most infinitely small liklihoods of a child at risk is too great a chance, what to do?
    The answer has been suggested well here.
    I’m in strong favor of adults in any community taking charge, and making that community as safe as it needs to be for their children. (for their children’s freedom!)
    When I was a kid, I didn’t take safety for granted. What I did take for granted, was that adults were in charge and knew what they were doing. That was no childish illusion – it was fact.
    What was different then? Were people at large somehow that much more angelic? Hardly.
    What was entirely different was the way people responded to news – and what they did about it.
    Fear mongering was treated with the contempt it truly deserved. Nervous ninnies stood out like sore thumbs – were more inclined to be socially ostracised.
    The public pressure was presented toward the real roots and sources of the problem – not toward parents who somehow just know with gut instincts that something isn’t quite right, doesn’t quite fit the picture.

    We can allow ourselves to be hounded to death by “what ifs” and “if onlies” all our lives – but we know endless freedoms wait on the other side.
    Media can be a marvelous cattle prod. Well maybe we can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd (so I hear tell.)
    But I’m still a big believer in earned freedom, and earned trust. Can’t imagine any kid growing up without it. Only one real way to do it. starts with the same baby steps it always did. And so on.

    My mom used to talk over the backyard fence. I guess that’s what this is. (I used to climb up and fall over that same old fence.) This one produces far less bruises on the old shins.

    Tara – the work you do is for a good cause. The more good people who get on board and fight back, the better world for our kids, and they always deserved our best efforts. No matter how dark it gets, keep shining that light…someone’s bound to notice.

  25. steve December 8, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    Tara, you said:

    “But I’ve just read 2 (more) dreadful stories of 2 kids who were viciously attacked. One was attacked as he was playing outdoors and the other was while she was walking home from school after travelling on the school bus by herself.”
    Tara, you have a limited number of hours per day in which to consciously occupy your mind. The time you spent reading those stories could have been spent reading positive, encouraging information. But … you made a personal choice NOT to do that.

    There is a reason why you choose to continue to fill your mind with stories that feed fearmongering.

    You can choose to read all kinds of information sources and positive stories that don’t EVER report the kinds of horrific stuff you’re replaying in your mind. Read those. Select videos and movies that build you up.

    Back in July, Lenore posted about the amazing Abernathy Boys, Louis (age 10) and Temple (age 6) who rode by themselves on their horses from Oklahoma to New York City back in 1910. They also rode their horses from New York to San Francisco in 62 days. They have become a symbol to me of what children are capable of doing if you prepare them and allow them to do things for themselves. Of course a key principle of free range parenting is “preparing” a child so he can safely navigate the world.

    Here’s the link to Lenore post and the comments.

    You also said:
    “I try not to listen to, or read the news.”

    I find it interesting you did NOT say:

    “I’ve stopped reading and listing to negative news, especially when it’s about children

    I tell myself that I know it’s a horrific thing that has happened but it’s not happening all the time, everywhere.

    But now it seems that story after story, month after month, the media is wearing me down.

  26. steve December 8, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    regarding my post above this one.

    I didn’t intend for the stuff below the link to be a part of the post. Sorry about that. Just a careless mistake.

  27. Jeff December 8, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Howdy. Bruce Schneier is a well known security expert who started off with computer security (e.g. encryption and related systems) and has gradually moved to writing and speaking about security and risk analysis in what I call “the real world”. Much of his recent risk assessment commentary is very much in line with the Free Range Kids thinking; e.g. and if you aren’t already aware of his work, I recommend his blog and recent books.

    For example:

    “Beyond Fear”
    Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World

    More info including links to his blog and books is available from:

  28. Joel December 8, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    You’re not raising a kid, you’re raising an adult. It’s a gradual process that starts on day one and ends when they strike out on their own. Whenever you feel the fear (as we all do), think about the alternatives. Look forward to the future when your child will be fully grown and think of the necessary life skills she will have because she was allowed to explore and thrive at an early age.

  29. Kenny Felder December 8, 2012 at 6:23 am #

    I agree with Lenore that statistics–even if you understand them perfectly–don’t have much emotional impact. Read stories: fictional, or real life. Read biographies of typical or famous children 30 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago. Read the “American Girl” series. Immerse yourself (and your kids) on a daily basis in a world where no one thinks twice about sending a child on a half-hour walk to school, and on the way home the child stops to play marbles with his friends and they head off together to the candy store. That is the *NORMAL* world, and this is the *BIZARRE* one. And the more time you spend imaginatively in that world, the stranger this one looks.

  30. Rhea December 8, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    I totally agree with Linvo’s first comment. I think it is natural to fear for your am child’s safety and the best way to deal with that is to clarify the fear in your mind and then teach your child the best ways to deal with those horror situations should they arise. I remember my dad sitting me down and telling me things like “you’re mouth is your biggest weapon – you can scream and you can bite. No matter how much bigger that person is than you, if you buys them as hard as you can, you WILL hurt them, and when you scream out say things like ‘let go of me, I don’t know you, stop you’re hurting me’.” He taught me to never get into a car with a stranger, and if somebody tried to get me into one to never go quietly. Hold onto my bike if I was riding it, make lots of noise, kick and flail and fight. He told me that if I ended up in the boot of a car ten I should play with any wires I could find to make the lights do funny things and get people’s attention, and look for emergency release catches.

    My son is only 15 months old so my biggest fears are him drowning or getting hit by a car, so I am teaching him to swim and teaching him about cars and roads and how to stop and look both ways.

    Try to remember that, as parents, it is not our job to keep our children safe and happy. It is our job to teach them all the life skills they will
    require to keep THEMSELVES safe for the next 60-80 years (<— average lifespan)

  31. pentamom December 8, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    1. Worrying when you hear about something actually bad happening is normal and healthy. You don’t have to believe that there is zero danger or risk in the world — you just need to be able to take a breath and be rational when it comes time to make and implement your parenting choices. Don’t panic because right now, you feel like overprotecting her nine months from now. Just do the right thing nine months from now.

    2. The second point is related — fear world is not the real world even when your fears are grounded in reality. Give your daughter age-appropriate freedom (and responsibility) and after a while you despise that the world really isn’t scary. It’s like a habit or a muscle — your perspective changes as you and your daughter successfully navigate the world.

    And after a while, even when you hear about the real, horrible things, you’ll be able to say, “Right now I feel like locking her up forever, but I can see that Free Range is working, so tomorrow (or at least the next day) we will live in the real world, not the fear world.”

  32. pentamom December 8, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    “Realize” not despise.

  33. SadButMadLad December 8, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    It’s not just kids who you only heart about getting attacked. Pensioners are assaulted too. So much that some old people are afraid to go out from what they read in the newspapers. And them they are the young people like lads getting attacked and girls getting raped.

    News is always about bad news so with too much of it you get a skewed view of the world. Especially when you get the world’s bad news rather than just your local news.

    Try and put everything in perspective. How many children are there NOT getting attacked. How many pensioners walk to the shops with no problem. How many young people go out and enjoy themselves. Millions compared to one or two who have the misfortune to come to some harm.

  34. Yan Seiner December 8, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    I keep hearing so much about protecting our kids…. Here’s my favorite story of childhood:

    The 11 year old was too young to wield an axe, so he got to drive a mule train in a raging snowstorm. Today, we would throw the parents in jail; back then it was the norm.

    If you like the story, buy the book. It’s full of stories of families doing stuff, treating their kids like full-blown members of their society. Kids would do the tasks they were able to do, and all through the book you hear fond memories of life there. Most of the people who grew up there talk about how it was the happiest time of their lives, because they got to do stuff.

  35. MrsSell December 8, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    I highly recommend reading the novel ‘Airframe’ by Michael Crichton. It does an AMAZING job of exposing the distortions in the news media. Once you read it, those types of stories won’t get you down as much because you’ll have the knowledge to see them for what they are: gross exaggerations that have very little to do with reality.

  36. Donald December 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    I agree with MrsSell

    Although I haven’t read Airframe, the news distortions are so obvious to me. Even though I know they are only distortions and not complete fabrications, I sometime have short visions of Gilligan’s Island when I watch CNN.

    I sometime joke after I finish watching the news.”That’s enough entertainment. Now I want to see what reality is like. I better switch it over to Big Brother, Two and a half Men, or CSI.”

  37. Charles Atlas Shrugging December 9, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    While reading Tara’s concerns, one thought kept going through my mind, when the bad things were happening, how many children weren’t harmed, or threatened, or stalked?
    Instead, how many children took positive steps towards becoming productive members of our society by gaining confidence by taking care of themselves?
    Be it walking home, making their own sandwich, or playing with their friends in the back yard, children develop critical problem solving skills and self-sufficiency.

  38. Jenn December 9, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    My child sees a social worker because he has some anxiety issues. One `trick’ she has taught him to do when he keeps focusing on the `what-if’s’ is for him to focus on the good things that have happened already. Think about all those happy kids walking home from school, getting a healthy body, growing confidence and independence, and the friendships that they made. Maybe you were one of those kids, years ago. Focusing on the positive, rather than the negative will help keep your outlook focused on what will happen rather than what might happen (and that’s a really small might).

  39. Lollipoplover December 9, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    My only advise to Tara would be to prepare her children to be survivors instead of victims. No one has a crystal ball or any guarantees that nothing will happen to our children. The proverbial lightning strike is always possible.

    One of my most moving parenting moments was finding a “list” written inside my daughter’s closet ON THE WALL. At first I was upset, she wrote on the wall! But looking at the list made me cry. She wrote all the things she could do herself she was 5 at the time)- ride her bike to school, make waffles in the toaster oven, feed the dogs and cats, pack her lunch for school. She was proud of herself and her independence and was keeping a list of all of things she could do. Sefl confidence can’t be given to children. They need to develop it on their own.

    I don’t raise my kids to think the world around them doesn’t have danger. I think a healthy dose of fear and awareness of your surroundings is a good thing. On of my son’s favorite book series this year is the “I Survived…” 9/11 attacks, Titanic, San Fran Earthquake (from Scholastic Books). At first, I was concerned of his interest in disasters but after reading a few of the pages, I understood why he enjoyed them. He wanted to find out what kids did to survive and not be victims.

  40. hineata December 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    @Tara – everyone above has made good points. I try to think of what the kids would miss out on if I didn’t give them freedom.

    Case in point – yesterday we were biking around the Wellington waterfront, and it was at its usual level of busyness on a warm afternoon. The Sea Shepherd’s sister ship was in on its way to the southern oceans, so the girls went on board and toured it while I waited with bikes. Only took a half hour or so, but while I was sitting in the sunshine I was thinking about this post, and what sort of experiences my kids would miss out on if I never let them out of my sight. They biked around without me too, as I prefer a leisurely cycle! If they can off, they can repair themselves, or be helped by the thousands of kind strangers wndering around the place – as we would help out others. Try and relax – your kids will miss out otherwise.

  41. Donald December 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    The human brain is hardwired so that emotion can override rational thinking. The thought of pedophiles or kidnappers snatching our children can bring a tsunami of emotion! This in turn can veto any statistics or logical thinking.

    The best way to combat this is to get emotional about Free Range. Imagine as vividly as you can, your daughter after 20 years of raised in a protective bubble. She has no confidence and is filled with fear.

    She is older so pedophiles and kidnappers are no longer a worry but she’s become the perfect target for an abusive husband! She can join the huge number of statistics of batter women that stay with their husband because they don’t have enough confidence to leave!

  42. CJB December 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Before Free Range, in my house it was so bad that my husband would not let the children walk 5 feet away from us when we were walking the sidewalk on a lovely summers evening in our quiet neighborhood. If they ran ahead he would get anxious.
    It took a lot of talking and assuring and repeating (to my husband) that the kids were capable of running down the sidewalk to the next fire plug and back without being abducted or hit by a drunk driver careening onto the sidewalk (which actually happened to his younger brother as he witnessed it – so you can imagine that was a hard one for him).
    We finally removed the TV from the house to remove that sensationalized media hype called the evening news.
    Pre-Internet, only the most critical stories made the national evening news. I don’t recall hearing about missing kids. My parents certainly did not worry about it – and they both worked. I recall my first exposure to the fact that kids CAN BE kidnapped was when they added “missing” kids to milk cartons in the 80’s!
    Post-internet, it takes NO air time, NO newspaper space to print and share and sensationalize 1 scary & horrible murder of a child so that every parent thinks that it happens every day on every corner and their child is next.
    Good Luck! c

  43. Jynet December 9, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    There have been a number of brain studies showing that our brains recognize EACH telling of a traumatic story as a NEW trauma.

    Every single time the ad for the news comes on and tells us about the same abducted/abused child our brains react as if it was ANOTHER child going through the same thing(s).

    Of course if feels overwhelming!!

    I have found that since I got a DVR I only watch the news once in a while, and when I do I only watch the news, not all the run up ads to the news. I’m a lot less tense (though I have to admit I wasn’t that worried to start with).

  44. Donald December 9, 2012 at 10:45 pm #


    I’m fascinated by this but not surprised. Will you post a link so that I can look into this?

  45. CLamb December 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Most of the stories you see are news because they are exceptional. To get a more realistic view of criminal activity in your neck of the world I recommend you look at the the police blotter section of your local newspaper or have a chat with your local police officers and/or prosecutors.

  46. Jynet December 10, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Sorry Donald, It was probably 10 years ago that I read the studies. I did a quick search, but can’t find them again. If I come across them in a reasonable time I’ll try and get back to you.

  47. Donald December 10, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Thank you. I appreciate that. You can reach me on my website

  48. Jenna K. December 10, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    I was like this when my oldest was about that age as well. I couldn’t imagine him walking to and from school alone, but I didn’t want to be driving him every day either. It was a gradual shift in thinking where I let him (and his siblings) out a little bit at a time without supervision. Two years ago, they would go outside and play and within five minutes, I’d be outside with them. Then I’d run in the house to check on something and go back out. It happened this way, gradually, until they would spend the whole afternoon playing and I would check on them once or twice. Once I started seeing all the things they could do independently, the more I allowed them independence. Now I let my boys, ages 9, 8, and 6, ride bikes to the nearest park, a few blocks away alone. I also let them ride their bikes to and from school alone, when the weather permits (the school is about a mile from us). But it took me several years to get to this point.

  49. Cara December 10, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Maybe this will help allay your fears a tiny bit. When I graduated from law school I spent a year working for a judge on the highest criminal court in Texas. I basically spent every day for a year reading about nothing but crimes. This is what I realized:

    The vast majority of violent crimes (at least in Texas, and it’s such a big state that it seems representative) are committed against people who are either 1. hanging out with nasty people or 2. spending time in dangerous areas. This is not the blame the victims AT ALL, but if you and your kids aren’t hanging around dangerous people (gang members, drug addicts, criminals) or spending time in very dangerous areas of a city, you are VERY safe. I can only recall one, ONE, case from the entire year where someone was harmed in what you would think of a “worst case scenario” (stranger in a nice part of town) and that was a serial rapist/murderer who you just can’t protect from (kid was abducted from her bedroom). Also, that case was from 20 years ago and just came up in relation to someone else’s appeal.

    I know that facts often don’t help, but perhaps this will give you a bit of comfort.

  50. A Dad December 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Just keep in mind….
    The new media’s motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.”

    The new media is like any business function. They operate on how they are graded. Ratings are how the news organizations are graded. They will do what is needed to drive ratings and by leading with these horror stories, they will attract viewer/readers.

    People have a morbid curiosity about these horror stories. It’s in our DNA. We can’t ignore them.

    Look at the attraction to horror movies starting with ‘Friday the 13th’

  51. Maegan December 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I’m about to become a first-time parent and even though I believe in Free Range concepts, I worry often that I won’t be emotionally and mentally strong enough to carry them out. I’ve already had a very difficult pregnancy. I’ve driven myself literally mad many days and weeks at a time thinking about the horrible things that can happen to unborn babies. In those times, I wonder if I’ll ever let my children out of the house. I hope to be able to fight through my fears in the coming years. I know that starting small will be key. Sending them to the park alone for the first time might drive me insane, but then they’ll be back and they’ll be fine and eventually I’ll adjust…hopefully! Anyway, you’re not alone.

  52. AW13 December 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    @A Dad: It predates horror movies. Medieval psalters about the lives of the saints went into excruciating detail about the tortures these people suffreed and were enourmously popular among the literate. (Given human nature, I assume these were passed on word of mouth to those who could not read.)

    @Maegan: Just a thought here: I know that a little bit of concern about your baby is normal, but if you have reached a point where the obsessive worrying is comsuming your life, you might want to talk to a doctor about it. At the very least, you may want to be familiar with the signs of pre- and post-partum depression, in case what you’re feeling moves into dangerous territory.

  53. Sharon December 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Maegan – You will meet my different types of kids and parents once you have a child. Some kids are completely confident in their abilities some need to be tied to adults.

    My 11 year old worries that if she walks alone that someone will stop her and tell her to find her mom. I said you are old enough to explain that you know what you are doing and if they have a problem with that they can talk to me.

    Congratulatons on becoming a first time parent soon. It is exciting.

  54. Yan Seiner December 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    @Meagan: Ask yourself the opposite: Are you emotionally and mentally strong enough to take on every hurt, disappointment, and negative emotion your child will encounter?

    Isn’t it better to teach your child how to deal with these and then watch them succeed, instead of you always being there to mitigate the slightest failure?

    And, yes, I agree with the suggestion to see a professional if these feelings are getting out of hand.


  1. Free Range Kids » The List Her Daughter Scribbled on the Wall - December 10, 2012

    […] Readers — This came in as a comment to the post below this one, about a mom named Tara who wants to be Free-Range, but can’t help dark, scary thoughts taking over b…. It’s a reminder that even though we cannot protect our kids from everything bad, we can […]