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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Safety and Empowerment - How to Balance Risks for Teens

Lately, the world seems to be a little crazier to me, and although I refuse to watch the news on TV, there have been several "events" involving young girls being abducted, raped, or threatened that have managed to creep into my reality, shaking me up and creating a parenting dilemma that I imagine some of you are struggling with as well. Be warned - I do not have the answers, just the struggle - right now!

I am big on safety - from the time the kids were little we talked with them about not keeping secrets, trusting the feelings in their tummies, not letting anyone touch them in their private areas, strangers and being aware of their environment, what to do if they were threatened or approached by strangers, etc... The messages were never fear-based - just factual. I have never wanted to make them fear people, feel like targets or potential victims, or be afraid to move through the world.

On the contrary, I have wanted them to feel empowered to speak their voice, carry themselves with strength and move through the world with confidence. That seems really hard to do when the world is crazy and schools are installing cameras, telling kids not to go anyone without a buddy and making parents wear name tags. Do I become fearful and not let my kids walk the dog in our very safe neighborhood? Am I a bad parent if they are allowed to walk to the store or ride their bike to school? Where is the line between fearful and reasonable?

My kids are struggling with the same feelings. They say they are not afraid, have never felt afraid in our neighborhood, but are a little more aware of who is around them, and more conscious of "what they would do" if a stranger approached them. They know which places in our community they would go to, which houses have people we know living in them, and sadly, that there are people in the world that could hurt them - randomly.

I would love to hear from readers who have solved this dilemma for themselves, and thanks in advance for your ideas and perspectives.

Photo credit: mia3mom

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.