I think as parents, we expect our children to understand the difference between reality and fantasy by the time they hit puberty. I am sure I am not alone when I say that has never even crossed my mind to ask Genevieve and Audra if they fully grasped reality, I just assume that they do but the recent stabbing by two 12 year old girls as a favor for Slender man, really made me reconsider my assumptions.
When I first heard of this story, where two 12 year old girls plotted to kill their friend (Best friend apparently) for a favor from Slender man, an internet fictional character, I was chilled to the bone. My girls are 10 and 11; this story just hits too close to home, all I think is “that could easily be one of my girls lying there bleeding to death in a park, stabbed by her friends”.
I really do not want to go into details about who or what Slender Man is so I am providing you with a link to truly understand. http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Slender_Man. I can say he is creepier than any urban legend creeper that I remember as a child, he makes Bloody Mary sound like a kitten. We did have a time in our home when Audra was scared of him and it took a lot of reassurance that he was fake and he couldn’t hurt her.
So what does this incident tell us about raising young and impressionable children, in an era where their exposure to things is so easily accessible? Should we monitor every second of their lives, to the point where they are alienated and untrustworthy of us? No, of course not, we are trying to teach our children to be well-rounded, functional adults and that for certain does not happen by acting like a lunatic parent.
The way to get to your child is open dialog, no really just talk to them; like they are a person not a student in need of a lecture. I told the girls about what happened with the 12 year old girls and allowed them to develop their own reactions and conclusions. They both were so shocked and horrified that anyone could stab their friend. We discussed how these girls believed a fantasy to the extent that they were willing to kill someone over it. The conversation lasted for about an hour and we concluded with praying for all 3 girls involved and it hasn’t been brought up again but you could tell that it touched them and perhaps struck a cord with at least Genevieve.
It may sound crazy to discuss such adult topics with a child but where else will they get that voice of reason, that one talk could become the tiny voice in their head that protects them throughout their lives.
I pray for those girls, I pray for my girls, and I pray that as parents we can guide our children to think deeper, and care deeper.
With a lump in my throat and pain in my heart, we are continuing to take it one day at a time.