There are some conversations we, as parents, need to have with our kids to keep them safe. What would you do if another child hurt you on the playground? What if a stranger asked you to get in his or her car? What do you do if you get lost in a public place? For super-sensitive kids like my older son, however, these conversations are unbearably hard. I tried broaching the subject of what to do if he loses me in a store when he was about three and a half, and he literally shut down. He was terrified even thinking about it, and he wanted no part of the conversation. I didn’t want to leave him afraid, because honestly, he likely won’t get separated from me anyway, but I wanted to be sure he would know what to do should it happen. Kind of by accident, we found the perfect solution. Enter “Pig”:
This is my older son’s beloved stuffed pig. Her name? Pig. My mother bought her for my son when he was a baby, and for whatever reason, she became a favorite stuffed animal. Call me crazy (and you may), but I make my kids’ stuffed animals talk. Regularly. The Pig used to tell my son made-up stories about her daily adventures at night as he was falling asleep. One day, after some failed talks about strangers and bullies and whatnot, I decided to try something new. The Pig told my son about how she was at the mall with her mom (of course, named “Pig’s Mommy”) when she suddenly realized she had no idea where her mommy was and she was lost in the mall! My son listened intently as she described what she did, modeling what I would tell my son to do in that situation. The next night, she said she “forgot” what she did when she lost her mom at the mall, and wanted him to remind her so she’d remember for next time. “Oh!” he said. “I remember! You walked up to the lady at the check out and said ‘I lost my mommy! Her name is Pig’s Mommy! Can I wait with you until we find her please?’ and you waited with the lady at the check out while a police officer found your mommy!” It worked like a charm!
Since then, the Pig’s life has often paralleled my son’s life, indirectly offering advice and modeling positive solutions along the way. There was the time her friend at school was telling her to do things she knew she wasn’t supposed to…the time she was scared her mommy was going away overnight…the time she saw someone being mean to a younger kid at the park. Each time, the Pig describes how she handled the situation and how it worked out. It’s indirect enough that I can get the important message across while avoiding a shut-down from my son where he would otherwise stop listening.
If you now think I’m completely insane, I can respect that. However, if you’re the parent of a super-sensitive kid like mine, you might want to give it a try. Taking the focus off the child and putting it on a stuffed animal has been a great way to get the necessary information about safety across without causing too much stress. As long as I don’t find myself here in 12 years making up stories about how the Pig is nervous but excited for her freshman year of college…I’m calling this a “win”. 🙂