Price of stranger dan­ger

We need to start trust­ing peo­ple we don’t know with our kids

Life & Style Weekend - - YOU - BY Owen Jac­ques Fol­low Owen Jac­ques Jour­nal­ist on Face­book or find him on Twit­ter.

THIS Fa­ther’s Day, Aus­tralia’s dads – both cur­rent and fu­ture – need more than break­fast in bed or a shiny new im­pact drill. They need to be brought out of the shad­ows. That shadow has hung over men for decades, since stranger dan­ger warned my gen­er­a­tion that un­known men hid around ev­ery cor­ner ready to snatch us.

Tales of good men pub­licly shamed are lodged in the brains of men. Any one of us could face that ac­cu­sa­tion or im­pli­ca­tion, no mat­ter how brave, heroic or help­ful we are.

Big-hearted men have been shoved to the side­lines.

If you see a young boy in trou­ble be­yond the waves, do you swim out to help even if their mother treats you with sus­pi­cion?

I caught a boy run­ning to­wards a road at a tourist strip just as his fam­ily rushed around a cor­ner. They saw me hold­ing their son, but prob­a­bly not why. I won­dered if I’d be ac­cused of some­thing. I wasn’t. The mum and dad were thank­ful and re­lieved. So was I.

Writer Cle­men­tine Ford has said that if it takes a vil­lage to raise chil­dren, men need to be part of it. She tells of al­most forc­ing men to help out by ask­ing them to hold her baby when she runs out of hands. The men are prob­a­bly thrilled with that un­ques­tion­ing trust.

Mean­while a new idea to shift “stranger dan­ger” to “tricky adults” is gain­ing trac­tion.

Strangers are not the ones we need to fear. Child abuse is more likely to come from the hand of a mother, fa­ther, rel­a­tive or ac­quain­tance. The tricky adult idea is some­thing I’d teach my daugh­ter, but one line rubbed me the wrong way.

Chil­dren are told that if they’re lost, they should freeze or find “a mum with kids”.

Why is it never a dad with kids? Bet­ter avoid them just to be safe.

It’s time we rethought the world.

If we trust our wives and hus­bands, grand­par­ents, neigh­bours and friends to look af­ter our chil­dren – and we should – then we need to change how we look at strangers.

If we want to live in com­mu­ni­ties that sup­port us, we need to start trust­ing peo­ple we don’t know.

If we want to live in com­mu­ni­ties that sup­port us, we need to start trust­ing peo­ple we don’t know.

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

We need to start think­ing that most strangers will do no harm to our chil­dren.

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