Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What I've Learned from Free-Range Kids: Fear Has No Place

Lenore Skenazy blogs here, and wrote Free-Range Kids based on the same topic she covers on her blog.  Skenazy proves through research that the times we are living in are not any less safe for our children than they were for us, but our hyperawareness of every bad thing that happens everywhere all the time has made us think it is.  We’re raising kids who leave home as adults unable to make their own decisions because of fear, fear of everything.  Skenazy argues that it’s the parents and our society creating this monster since we are not encouraging or allowing our kids to assess practical risks and take chances developing their independence while they are home.

Skenazy’s book showed up at a point in our lives when D and I were hit in the face with this problem times about a thousand.  Wren’s Celiac and the addition of every gluten-filled bread crumb on the planet being an actual, real threat to our child has caused more than a few hiccups in what are considered normal childhood activities.  How do you raise a free-range kid when a wrong food choice or forgetting to wash hands before a meal increases their cancer risk?  And what if Wren gets contaminated enough to do internal damage but not to make her vomit or show outward signs leading to the contamination continuing until there are very real, hard to fix problems staring us in the face?

Of course, we have to raise Wren to learn to manage her Celiac and take on the responsibilities related to caring for herself.  But when and how much do we ask her to take on at each age?  That question has been debated between our pediatrician, our naturopath and us endlessly with no clear answer.  For sure we have to proceed carefully because Celiac compromises adrenal function which controls fight or flight mode.  What does that mean?  Taking on too much too fast could cause unnecessary stress on Wren’s body, especially if we ask her to make decisions she’s not ready to make or that require too many steps or risks.  She’s five, and adults have a hard time managing and staying safe in cross-contaminated environments.

After reading Skenazy’s book, D and I sought the Lord as to how to turn over some, but not too much, of the Celiac responsibility to her.  We started with Sunday School.  We moved to AWANAs this year, and Wren has LOVED AWANAs and is finishing up Cubbies.  So far, so good.  We’ve kept it simple and made the steps she has to follow limited.  She knows the drill and is not stressed by it. 

As we come up on each new challenge, like yes or no to VBS this year for three whole hours with multiple snacking/cross-contamination issues and the possibility of Play-Doh and flour activities, we seek God to help us not make a fear-based decision.  We want to make a guided, responsible decision based on the obvious risks, but fear alone as a motivator isn’t going to do any of us any favors.  We have to prepare Wren, and we also have to decide when going it on her own is above her level at this point in her life.  We want the Holy Spirit leading us, because as Skenazy points out, if I look to the world and to media alone, I will never even let my kids leave the house, let alone enter a house with Wonderbread.

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