Eight year-old Leiby Kletzky was supposed to have met his mother at a neighborhood grocery store around 5 p.m. Monday, but he did not made it to the rendezvous and tragically was never to be seen alive again.
The events that led to his discovery, and his gruesome murder, have left Americans shocked and filled with sadness. Parents are left sympathizing with Kletzky’s family, and contemplating their own worst nightmares. Many are asking themselves what they can do to stop this ever being able to happen to their own children.
Surveillance videos recovered by police show Kletzky last alive speaking to Levi Aron, the boy’s confessed killer, outside a neighborhood dental office the afternoon of his disappearance.
Kletzky had begged his parents to allow him to walk home from summer camp alone for the first time. “Can I go by myself?” A question dreaded by mothers and fathers everywhere, represents a child’s growing need for a sense of independence, and can be one of the biggest challenges faced in parenthood.
The decision over when it is appropriate to start granting a child more independence is one every parents grapples with, and each child is different. Maturity, size, street smarts, and many other characteristics must be gauged.
Several practice rounds of walking routes, strong warnings such as “don’t talk to strangers” embedded on the child’s brain, and self-defense classes are proving popular in helping parents resolve the inner turmoil experienced from the issue.
The National Center of Missing & Exploited Children estimates that an astonishing 797,500 children are reported missing each year.
National safety director at NCMEC Nancy McBride told New York Daily News: “If there’s one thing that kids need to know it’s that when they’re in a situation with a stranger, they don’t need to be polite.”
McBride added, “We raise our kids to be nice to adults and to be well behaved. But in a situation where they are feeling uncomfortable, all they need to know is that they should get away, fast.”
There is no such thing as too much communication between parents and children. McBride recommends that parents sit their kids down to discuss in-depth about dangers and answer any questions they might have.
Leiby Kletzky was the only son and second eldest of five children in the Orthodox Jewish family who live in Brooklyn, N.Y.