I often go places with our five children, instructing the older kids to stay in the park or pool, watch for strangers and take care of each other. I look around for them every 10 minutes or so. The littlest ones stay close to me. When my husband joins us, he nervously paces and checks constantly on them. I know our world is a scary place, but I believe he’s overly cautious. He only stresses me out. Should I ask him to stay behind?
With news on half a dozen cable networks and a bazillion websites, combined with the media’s fixation on the most gruesome and depraved events imaginable, it’s no wonder that many of us barely want to step outside anymore. That being the case, it is critical that we assess potential dangers to our children with a level head. In approaching this situation with your husband, we would suggest the following steps.
First, try not to carry out this disagreement in front of your children in the heat of the moment. This is when we are most likely to use our least charitable words to each other, due to the stress of dealing with the situation and being second-guessed at the same time. Wait until you have some private time, when cooler heads are prevailing and the children are elsewhere. This way, you show respect for each other and increase the likelihood of coming to an agreement.
Next, put the conversation in proper perspective by expressing understanding for your husband’s worries. We don’t know your husband, but it is probably fair to say that his intentions are honorable. He loves his children and wants to make sure no harm comes to them, an admirable goal for any father. By expressing your appreciation for his love and concern, you are likely to ease some tensions.
Third, we suggest making the following point: Our body language and the tone of worry in our voices is enough to generate real fear in our kids. If they pick up that we are anxious, they may then burden themselves with that anxiety. Instead, we want to communicate confidence to our children. Inside, we can worry all we want, scanning the area and sticking close by our kids. But we don’t want to appear skittish. That said, we do think age-appropriate discussions about “stranger danger” and never climbing into a stranger’s car are necessary and good. Perhaps your husband can take the lead here.
Finally, our family rule of thumb for being out in public places is that we keep our children in sight at all times. It’s not that we don’t let them run around and play, but we find a strategic vantage point where everyone is visible. If there’s a situation where there is an “older section” apart from a “toddler section,” we all play in one section at a time, together.
The world is a scary place and it only takes a moment for something bad to happen. We say err on the side of being a little too cautious. After all, if your husband is wrong, the consequence is a mild annoyance. But if you’re wrong, the consequence could be far worse.
The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the