How do I teach Andrew to be cautious without freaking him out?

It makes me so happy that Andrew is outgoing.  I have no idea what he’ll be like as he gets older, as I was totally outgoing just like he is when I was his age, and eventually I became very introverted.  Last week when my mil was over she mentioned how outgoing Andrew is and how he must get it from her (she is an actress after all, and that’s not meant as a slight against her, she really is!)  James piped in that actually I was really outgoing at his age – in fact, our personalities are frighteningly similar!  My mil asked ‘what happened’ as to why I’m now the opposite of outgoing, and in all honesty I couldn’t think of any singular, or even collective, experience(s) that led to that changing for me.  I wasn’t bullied in school, and I always had a good group of friends.  I get it when people say ‘school can be tough’ in the sense that kids can be cruel, but I wasn’t one to take any guff from anyone, so I never really worried about being teased or ‘having a tough time of it.’  If someone was rude to me, I would always one up them so they’d never talk back to me again!  And I never had any enemies.  So why I became introverted when I started out totally extroverted, I’ll never know.  (As a side note, I think a happy medium would be best, I’d like to be a little more outgoing than I am…but truthfully, I enjoy being an introvert over all).

Anyway…I’m getting a little off track here.  Right now, Andrew is about as outgoing as a person can get.  And that might change one day, but it might not.  I love that quality in him, of being comfortable in his surroundings, and looking at it that everyone is his friend before he even knows them yet.  He loves to go up to random people and say, ‘Hi, I’m Andrew!’ and he’s so adorable that he instantly charms anyone who catches his gaze.

What concerns me is the fact that he is so trusting.  I mean, it’s GOOD to be trusting.  But…where do you draw the line between trusting being a good thing to trusting people blindly?  While the majority of people, I like to believe, are GOOD, and with the best of intentions, there are also bad people out there.  I feel like Andrew is at an age now where he needs to learn that ‘bad guys’ aren’t just the villains on Spiderman or Batman, but rather, they do co-exist with us.  The thing is, I don’t want to scare him, and I certainly don’t want him to lose his enthusiasm for people because he’s worried that everyone out there could be a potential threat.  I want him to feel comfortable around people and to continue making friends with people he meets…But at the same time, I want to feel secure that if for some totally crazy reason we got separated in public, he wouldn’t automatically trust any person who came along offering to ‘help him.’  I would hate to think I’ve let him put so much faith and trust in people that he wouldn’t know to protect himself. 

So how do I go about explaining to him that he can be trusting but must also be cautious?  How do I explain that there are bad people out there, without giving him nightmares?  In his world, all the ‘bad guys’ are his ‘friends’ but they’re only bad guys to people like Spiderman and Batman; to him, they’re good.  Well, not all bad people are good!  And while I’m not overly paranoid about pedophiles or kidnappers or what have you – I know statistically it’s all very unlikely, and I also never let Andrew out of my sight, even if we’re just playing in the backyard.  Still…I also know, anything can happen and it only takes one second.  I want to know that Andrew is prepared, while knowing that it’s not something he has to actually ‘worry’ about.  He’s at an age where I think he could grasp a lot of what I’m saying, but it still might be a tad on the confusing side, and I don’t want to go about explaining something so serious in a way that could screw him up.

It’s all in how you word things with little ones, and once you’ve explained something in a certain way, I’ve sort of learned the hard way that it’s difficult to take those words back for better ones.  Not that I’ve had any major debacles with explaining things to him, although when we lost our last pregnancy I remember I told him the baby had to ‘go away’ and immediately after saying it I knew it was a poor choice of words because then Andrew worried that HE might have to ‘go away’ or I might have to…and it was months later before he finally stopped asking about it with anxiety.  Although it’s also possible there’s no way I could have better explained it, as part of why he was affected deeply by it was because of how obviously depressed I was, which he would have picked up on in a big way…Still, it has made me want to be extra cautious about how I talk to him about serious matters.

If anyone has any advice on this, I’m all ears!


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