What Do You Tell Your Kids?

‘Who’s that little girl, Daddy?’

Hmmm. I struggle to think of something to say as my daughter looks over my shoulder at the BBC news website. I flip the lid on the laptop down and mutter that ‘she’s a child who has gone missing in Wales.’

More questions, deflected by the arrival of dinner. But I know that I’m going to have to say something

And when the news comes out that this is now a murder inquiry – not much surprise there – I realise that April can no longer just be somebody lost in the hills around Machynlleth. She’s a victim and I know my children will have a hard time understanding the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of it all.

I get to thinking about how I can keep them safe, alert them to the dangers. Not ‘stranger danger’, that’s just for fiction. In real life, as the week’s news shows – Jimmy Saville, teacher Jeremy Forrest and his trip to France with his underage pupil, Mark Bridger – the danger isn’t from strangers. It’s from the person next door, along the street, a familiar face. In the majority of cases, shockingly, from someone in the family.

It’s probably why we like stories about serial killers. They’re real ‘baddies’, cardboard cut-out villains no different from the monsters in a fairy story. Far easier to focus our minds on the danger from those sorts of people who can be demonised. They’re perverts, psychos, nutters. The unpalatable truth is that the chance of a Ted Bundy character harming your children is miniscule. Any threat is likely to come from much closer to home. How on earth do you warn your kids about that sort of danger without destroying utterly their sense of security and well-being? At the moment I am lost for words…

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