Thursday, June 23, 2005


Boy Scout's Ordeal a Wake-up Call to All Parents

An 11 year old Boy Scout was found safe and sound after being lost for four days in the Utah wilderness. His mother Jody Hawkins, 'buckled and collapsed as she climbed into a sheriff's truck, convinced that authorities were about to tell her that her 11-year-old son had been found dead four days after getting lost in the Utah wilderness. Instead came the shocker: Her boy was found alive. And not only that, but he was unscathed.
"I really didn't think he could survive that long in the wilderness," Hawkins said, her voice breaking at times. "When they told me Brennan was still alive and in good shape, my brain still cannot comprehend that.'

Apparently, the boy had been taught never to talk to strangers, which on the face of it, would seem to be the right thing for any parent to do. In this case however, the boy hid from searchers for several days. Given all the things that might have happened to the boy during that time, it is fortunate that this story has a happy ending.
After helping to raise four children, I have often thought that the degree to which some parents go to street proof their children may do more harm than good. It's a well-known statistical fact that most child predators are known to their victims. Is it reasonable to suggest that more harm than good has been done when an 11-year-old child is afraid to approach a stranger after being lost in the wilderness for several days without food or shelter? I try to put myself in this child's position and cannot imagine the degree of fear he must have had which prevented him from asking for help. To go one step further, what effect does this have on a child's ability to trust and interact with other people as he grows up? Perhaps this is an isolated incident but perhaps it isn't.
Without doubt, the media focuses on the sensational and less pleasant aspects of human nature. In this age of instant news, where a tragedy thousands of miles away carries the same emotional impact as an occurrence in our own city, is it possible that our perception of the real risk to our own children is exaggerated by exposure to 'globalized' media? That we are obliging our children to acknowledge some of the most unsavory aspects of human behavior which the vast majority of them will only experience through their imagination and anxiety?

Of course children eventually learn the truth about the 'bogie man', Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and all those other nice and not-so-nice fantasies of childhood. But is it reasonable to assume this same process of 'growing up' automatically allows children to realize that a stranger is not necessarily an evil person?
There is surely a lesson to be learned here. A more chilling thought: have children actually died in similar circumstances because they had been told to stay away from strangers?
This incident ought to be a wakeup call to all parents to ensure their message is clearly understood and appropriate to their children's particular needs and circumstances.

Read full story here: Parents: Scout's Survival Like a Dream'


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