Tag: free range kids

katerinanj cropYesterday I posted a photo and description on Facebook of a one-time convicted pedophile, whom I witnessed grooming a potential 11 year-old victim at our neighborhood pool. When I first saw this guy in the pool inappropriately engaging with children he didn’t know, I didn’t know he was a registered sex offender. But I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right. Afterwards I talked to the little girl. The next day I found out from a neighbor who had searched the sex offender list that he had been convicted of lewd behavior with a 9 year-old girl twenty years ago.

This incident has sparked a big conversation about what we can do to help keep our children and our communities safe.  I’m not an expert but here are 10 things I think we can do and tell our kids to help keep them safe*…

  1. This is an isolated incident. This is what we can tell our kids. This is not the norm, this is the exception. Be aware but don’t live scared. Most people our kids will encounter are good people. Tell our kids, THIS GUY IS A CREEP. MOST PEOPLE ARE GOOD.
  2. Let our kids know that adult authority does not ever, must not ever, be unqualified. They need to know that as children, they have rights. And those rights aren’t superseded simply because the other person is an adult. Many pedophiles are not strangers. Kids don’t always have to be nice. Yes, it’s embarrassing when our kid isn’t nice to the stranger in the grocery store or to Uncle Billy but if that person is making them uncomfortable, let them have their feelings.
  3. Tell our kids that they don’t need an excuse to end a conversation that is making them uncomfortable. Especially a conversation with a stranger!! I think even as adults we can be held captive by someone’s conversation when it is clearly making us uncomfortable. Think of a drunk at a party. All we need to say is, “Okay, I’m walking away now.” Then walk away.
  4. Teach our kids that anyone that touches them should have consent first. How can we teach this? By asking for consent before we touch a kid. “Oh, I want to hug you! Can I hug you?” Eventually they will realize that anyone that DOESN’T get consent is doing the wrong thing.
  5. Give our kids appropriate freedom. Appropriate freedom varies from kid to kid. There is no magic age, this is a personal decision. Several people have said to me that now they’re afraid to let their kid go out alone. Please don’t stop doing this. Please continue to let your kids wander the neighborhood or bike to a friend’s or go to the pool. If this still feels difficult have them go out in pairs or in groups. Just because there is one guy doing the absolute wrong thing, it doesn’t mean our children have to be prisoners to this.
  6. Be a part of the village. Care about the people around you and make sure our kids have someone in their life to care about also: friends, teachers, other parents. Say hello to the people walking by. And if you see someone in need of help, teach your kids to help out by helping out. I talked to that little girl I saw at the pool after this guy gave me a bad vibe. I didn’t know then he was a convicted pedophile. I just knew something was off. My daughter watched me do this. She actually helped me do it. She now knows if she sees something off she can say something. Or ask someone nearby to help out.
  7. Make sure our kids know they did nothing wrong. Tell them this again and again. Because a pedophile will make a kid feel they are guilty of something. The more they know this to be true, the more they will share any stories they have/hear.
  8. Allow all conversations. In my house I like to think that every topic is allowed on the table. I want my kids to bring anything to me they need to bring without worrying about getting in trouble. All conversations on the table.
  9. Ask your kid to name 5 or more adults that they could trust to talk to if they need to and a couple of friends too. Not just about sexual abuse but about anything. If they can’t come up with 5, that might be a good family goal.
  10. Finally, and perhaps foremost as well, teach our kids to tune into their guts. From small decisions to big ones, pause and check in with your gut. It’s rare that your gut is wrong. And if it is, there’s no harm in being wrong.
  11. This one was submitted by a reader and is a great addition: Tell your kids that no strange adult is going to ask them for help doing anything. They will not ask for help finding keys or an address or a puppy or ANYTHING!!! So they should know that if a stranger in adult form asks them to help with ANYTHING, they can know to walk away.

When our kids know all these things, they can be even more free to roam on their own. Safe, strong and free. That’s the goal. With the emphasis on free.

*If anyone has any other ideas of what we could do, I’d love it if you posted them in the comments.

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Time for Slow Family

Perhaps you read the article in this week’s Time Magazine by Nancy Gibbs about overparenting, slow parenting, free range parenting. Perhaps that is how you found us.  We are certainly glad to be a part of it all. And glad too, to have had Nancy Gibbs sitting with us for our Slow Family workshop sharing in the conversation and eating, yes, gluten free, dairy free, locally made coconut ice cream. Because one thing for sure about Austin,  it is chock full of all types of entrepreneurial and extremely creative and passionate individuals, foodies among them.

The tag line for Slow Family Living is slow down, connect, enjoy. Our goal in all of the work we do, our e*books and workshops and talks and blog posts and interviews, is to help families find ways to do just that. To pause. To connect. And to truly enjoy family life.  Of course, what is slow looks different in every household, but what remains the same is the fact that if we want to build lifelong family connection, we can start putting it in place now, creating small connections in the day to day: eye contact, ritual and tradition, talking, familial incubation, and pausing, as a family unit, to check in with each other and create intimate connection. For now and for the long haul.

There are scientific reasons why slowing down is important. In order to integrate all we see, hear and learn in a day, our brains must be given the chance to absorb the information into our whole selves. And there are emotional reasons too. When we slow down we are given the chance to see, hear, feel and understand each individual and the family as a whole, and ask the ever present question, “is this working for us?”

If this is your first time here, we hope you’ll browse around and read our blog posts and our manifesto and articles and maybe download our e*books as well. In their 30 some odd pages, they are full of good information and writing exercises for finding ways to live family life the way that feels best  for you. Because one thing for sure, family life looks different for each and every family. But the desire and need for connection are truly universal themes.

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Commercial free childhood

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If you’ve been on this site for a while you may remember a post about a documentary called Consuming Kids. It’s put out by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and it’s all about making sure that the marketing machine that is aimed directly at families and kids stays regulated. And believe me, they’ve got a big job ahead of them.

Just recently this same center had a big victory with getting Disney, (yes, big giant Disney) to offer a refund for any Baby Einstein products purchased since 2004. The threat of a class action lawsuit regarding false advertising claims of smarter infants and toddlers and kids was what convinced Disney to take this step.

It’s a limited offer, so help us spread the word by sharing this info with any parents and especially grandparents you may know. The grandparents seemed to be an equally large target for those claims of producing bigger, smarter, faster infants.

And now does this mean that infants and kids can be left to their own pace? Well, it’s a step in the right direction to be sure.

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25 ways to simplify your life

I came across this great post today on a site called Zen Habits. It’s a simple list about simplifying life at home with children. Ways to stay present. Stay connected. And still get stuff done.

at home 033At our house we’ve decided to revisit the world of gratitude and appreciation. It’s needed. And it’ll bring us all where we need to be. And it’ll be the chance to focus on what’s working instead of what’s not.

As for the slide picture, well, I got such a great response to the last one I figured I’d put another in there with a different angle. As a little nod to all the free range kids and parents out there in the world. And to answer the question someone sent me about “is it really as big as it looks in the photo??” Yes is the answer.

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The importance of play

I was talking to an 11 year old the other day who was greatly dismayed that at his new middle school there was no time during the day to run around and play. The only physical activity is one semester of P.E. and that’s not until spring. He had to wait until he got home before he could move his body at all. Even the 30 minutes of free time during the day that they were given, they were not allowed to go outside. He was bummed and his parents were worried that with no physical outlet during the day, his learning would be impeded.

Just after that conversation a friend sent me this article from the New York Times about the importance of play entitled: Let the Children Play (some more) by Stuart Brown. It’s not just about having a good time or about getting physical exercise, it’s about behavior and attention span and overall wellness.

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Free Range Kids

Carrie and I like to play a little “what if” game when we are worrying about something or feeling fear or if we realize we’re anticipating that something will go badly. We allow ourselves to do the bad “what-if” – What if we fail? What if our car breaks down? What if they don’t like what we have to say?  But then we like to flip the feeling by also playing the good “what-if” in our heads. What if we’re a smash? What if they invite us back again for a bigger conference? What if we get there early and have time to take a swim in the pool before the meeting. It’s a great exercise and you can really feel the worry shifting as you move from the bad to the good. The same works for parenting too.

On the blog Free Range Kids, which is a great blog about allowing your children to have more of an untethered and more worry-free childhood, (which, by the way, then frees you from the anxiety too allowing everyone a little more breathing room) – they write about the troubles of the bad “what-if” scenarios which play out in the minds of so many parents. Which then causes people to live in a spiral of unwarranted fear.

I challenge all of you, parents and non-parents alike, to try our little “what-if” shifting game for yourselves. When you find yourself worrying too much about safety or wellness or other unknowns, try shifting it with a little good “what-if”. You’ll be amazed at how the worry and fear will just kind of fall away.  Then you can get on with living life the way you really and truly want to live it. Fear-free and to the fullest.

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Slow Toys

This just in. In an article by Allison Ross in the Palm Beach Post…

Parents looking to rein in holiday spending on Wiis and other high-tech gadgets for their kids this year: take heart.
The stick – possibly the world’s oldest toy – was added Nov. 27 to the National Toy Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Barbie, Slinky, teddy bears, Mr. Potato Head and Play-Doh.
“The good thing about a stick is it’s limitless,” said Patricia Hogan, a curator for the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., which houses the Hall of Fame. “Today, it’s a magic wand. Tomorrow, it’s a fishing pole.”
Read more…

Maybe mud will be next.

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