DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in a nice gated community area. The neighbors are always friendly, families go on walks and kids play together nicely. I love it here. Recently, there have been a lot of families moving in and out of the neighborhood. I’ve noticed a little boy that I’ve never seen before that walks back and forth on my street each day and then heads to the playground. I can see from my backyard. He plays for an hour or so, then leaves. Since the school year has started, this happens every day around noon. He might be only 5 or 6 years old. I have never seen him with an adult. Sometimes there are other kids and adults at the playground, but when there are not, he plays alone, and I see him walk there and back alone.
Even though we live in a safe area, I am concerned and curious why he is always alone. I’ve thought about stopping him and asking him or following from a distance to see where he goes, but if his parents did tell him not to talk to anyone, I do not want to frighten him, I just want to make sure he is OK, being that I see him at the same time each day. What should I do? -- Friendly Neighbor
DEAR FRIENDLY NEIGHBOR: The way I grew up, every family looked out for every other family. There would be no child alone and unidentified. Obviously, times have changed, but such values can stay the same. Go up to the child and introduce yourself. Be warm and friendly. Ask him his name and where his parents are. Chances are, he lives in eyeshot of the playground. Just like you can see him from your home, it is likely that his parents can see him too.
Tell him you would like to meet his parents. If he invites you to meet them or asks them to come to the playground to meet you, that would be great. Otherwise, don’t press for his address. That could spook him. Instead, do pay attention and see if you can figure out where he lives so that you can ring the bell at another time to introduce yourself, welcome them to the neighborhood and point out that you have seen their son regularly by himself. Being alone at that age is unsafe.