Some of this makes sense. For parents in this area, they know that a predator is still at large, so the threat feels particularly real. And our natural instincts after reading about a tragedy – even if it’s across the country – are to hold our children closer and to maybe hover a bit more than we might have in the past.
But in general, I believe what our children need from us is more freedom, not less. And I hope that as my children get older, I’ll be able to keep my own fears in check to allow them those freedoms.
When I read Lenore Skenazy’s book “Free Range Kids” several years ago, it struck a chord with me: This was the kind of parent I wanted to be. She articulated many of the feelings that I already had, that we were putting our children – from infants through teenagers – in a bubble, to their detriment.
It’s easy to say, from a distance, that the world is as safe (or safer) as it has ever been, that it is only incessant media coverage of abductions and tragedies that make it feel so much more dangerous. One report from the Department of Justice puts the number of “stereotypical kidnappings” by a stranger at 115 this year, with about 40 percent ending in death. But it becomes harder when a tragedy like Jessica’s puts a face on that danger, especially one so nearby. Clearly, to Jessica’s family and friends, she is more than just a statistic.