People are being murdered every day in the United States. However, some of these murders capture the public’s attention more than others. Hugely fascinating and frightening has been the recent murder of the female Yale University graduate student, whose body was found stuffed into a wall in the Yale University biology lab on the day she was to be married. Perhaps it was the imminent nuptials which made people more sympathetic, or perhaps it was that one is ultimately not safe anywhere that made people respond so viscerally to this particular news story.
A 10 year old girl called me shortly after that story broke out, because she was now quite scared about everything. Her fear only started, however, when she was in a movie theater bathroom stall and a woman came in, screaming and pounding on the doors, ostensibly looking for some other child. Since that incident, my young caller had been scared. Her mother was listening in when I validated this child’s feelings by saying “You are perfectly correct in being scared. It is true that there are bad people who are willing to hurt you and that you are sometimes not even safe in your own home.”
Paradoxically, that calmed her down! Why? Perhaps it seems to you that that comment would make her more upset. Nope. I validated her worst fears, and in doing so, helped her to put them in proper proportion. If everyone is lying to you because of good intentions, you have to escalate to get them to confirm reality. This child did not have to bounce off walls anymore. Someone believed her that life is not completely safe.
I continued by reminding her that she was becoming an adult. Adults deal with truth, and the truth is that we are not always safe. Adults need to be aware of that and, instead of just being freaked out about it,, they need to prepare for it: locking the doors, watching who is near your car in a parking lot, learning some self-defense, being careful about where you go with people you don’t know, and on and on.
Evil is a part of life; danger is a part of life. People need to know and respect that fact and be armed with information and reasonable plans to deal with these facts.
A little bit of paranoia is a good thing. It keeps you prepared. Too much paranoia inhibits one from living life at all.
Don’t hide the fact of evil and danger from your children. Teach them how to recognize them and then what to do.