Teach your children well

2010-06-04 00:00

THE recent disappearance of a nine-year- old Pinetown boy from outside his school probably set many parents’ hearts palpitating as they contemplated this nightmare scenario. Many probably thought: “What if that had been my child?”

Fortunately, the story had a happy ending when the child was found wandering unharmed in a shopping centre in Johannesburg. However, the incident served as a reminder to all parents to take precautions to ensure their children’s safety, especially ahead of the World Cup and school holidays.

At the recent launch of Child Protection Week, President Jacob Zuma said: “While we are excited about the World Cup tournament, we are mindful that an event of this magnitude unfortunately also opens up opportunities for criminals, such as those who traffic in women and children.

“Of particular concern is that the extended closure of schools for the mid-year vacation during the World Cup will leave large numbers of children largely without full- time supervision. Not all parents and care­givers will be able to align their vacation with that of the extended school vacation. We urge parents to take extra care and ensure that their children are supervised and provided with guidance at all times. Children wandering alone in shopping malls and football stadia will be vulnerable to people with evil intentions.”

According to the website mychildsafety. net, preparing children for the unexpected or for “stranger danger”, is an issue that parents should address regularly as it requires ongoing, open communication to help keep children vigilant.

“The most important thing to remember when teaching your children about stranger danger is to instil confidence, rather than fear. You need to equip them with the knowledge and strategies they will need to protect themselves in dangerous situations.” The site also makes the point that children “should know that there really are many more good people, than bad and that “the vast majority of adults will help a child in danger”.

It is important to keep children’s ages and maturity levels in mind, and base what you teach them on that. As they grow, adapt your input to their level of understanding and the kinds of situations they may encounter.

A key question in this debate — and one that is difficult to answer — is: How can children know which strangers they can trust?

According to a child safety adviser for Parent24.com, Ally Cohen, one of the best things parents can do is to encourage their children to trust their own intuition. “If something does not feel right, it probably isn’t.” Children’s protective instincts can help them to distinguish the difference between what the mychildsafety.net calls “good” and “bad” strangers. “This is an overly simplistic dichotomy, but one that puts the issue in terms a child can understand. They need to know where and to whom to turn, if they are ever lost or feel afraid, threatened, or if they think someone may be following them.”

Examples of “good” strangers may include police officers, security guards, teachers and shop assistants, etc. In many situations where children may be approached by a “bad” stranger, such as on the street or in a park, easily identifiable “safe” people may not be around. Teach children to avoid potential danger spots like the open veld and dark or isolated areas. However, this may not always be possible, so the best thing they can do if approached by a “bad” stranger who tries to lure or physically pull them away, is to get the attention of other adults by running to the nearest shop or home, or making enough noise to be heard by someone.

One of the best ways to teach children about protecting themselves is through role playing . Check out www.mychildsafety.net for role-playing scenarios.

 

Make sure your children:

• know they are loved and can talk to you about their problems;

• clearly understand what is and is not allowed, and what to do in an emergency;

• know their name, address, and phone number, as well as your cellphone number;

• use the buddy system — avoid walking anywhere alone;

• trust their instincts — if they feel they are being followed or something is not right, get help immediately;

• know never to get into a car with someone whom they do not know. Before or after school, they must wait inside the school property for their organised lift to fetch them;

• if a stranger approaches, they do not have to speak to him or her. Just keep walking;

• do not accept sweets or any other items from a stranger;

• know never to walk off with a stranger, no matter what he or she tells them;

• if someone is following them, try to remember the licence plate of the car and immediately tell a trusted adult;

• if a stranger grabs them, they should do everything they can to avoid being pulled away or dragged into a car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite and scream. If they are with a friend, they should hold onto each other and run, shouting as loudly as they can. Do whatever it takes to attract the attention of others who can help. If someone is dragging them away, advise them to scream: “This is not my dad”, or “This is not my mom”.

• know never to open the gate or front door for anyone whom they do not know. Make sure your domestic employees follow this rule too;

• know where the “safe room” is in your home — a room with a telephone where they can go, lock the door and phone for help in an emergency;

• know where you are at all times;

• know the contact number of a trusted adult such as an aunt, an uncle or grandparents; and

• know that their body is private and the law will protect them if they say no to someone touching them in a way they do not like.

— www.mychildsafety.net, and www.4akid.co.za

CHILD SAFETY TIPS FOR PARENTS

• Know where your children are at all times, who they are with and always make a mental note of what your child is wearing.

• Always keep a recent photograph of your children in your purse or wallet or on your cellphone.

• Ensure they know the telephone numbers of the police station and stick emergency numbers on the fridge door and behind every bedroom door.

• Know the names, addresses and numbers of all your children’s friends. Be cautious of every friend they make and get to know their friends.

• Be involved in your child’s life. Build a trusting relationship, but do not overdo it. Make your house a place where your children want to be and also where they want to take their friends.

• Keep your children (especially the younger ones) close to home and never send them anywhere alone.

• Get ID bracelets or other means of identification with your phone number on it. If you do not have an ID bracelet or something similar, when you go out to public places, make sure to write your telephone number on your child’s arm or somewhere visible.

• Take your children to the nearest police station/hospital/clinic and show them how to get there. Point out landmarks to prevent them from getting lost. Teach them to take the same route to and from places like school, shopping centres or friends’ houses. This way if your child goes missing, you can start looking along the discussed route.

• Teach your children to scream to attract attention when they are in trouble. Teach them that it is more important for them to get themselves out of danger than it is to be polite.

• Choose a password and teach them not to trust any stranger who does not know the password.

• If your children are on MXit or Facebook, find a way to monitor it. Know who they are talking to, show you are interested, familiarise yourself with the technology, the networks, slang language and always be one step ahead.

• Ensure that emergency telephone numbers are keyed in and saved on your child’s cellphone and that he or she knows how to find them in the event of an emergency.

• Make sure your children’s names are not visible on their lunch boxes, school bags or clothing. If they are, this will put them on first-name terms with any stranger.

— www.4akid.co.za

IMPORTANT NUMBERS FOR CHILDREN TO KNOW

 

• POLICE: 10111

• CELLPHONE HELP: 112

• MISSING CHILDREN SA: 072 MISSING

• SAPS CRIMESTOP: 08600 10111

• CHILDLINE: 08000 55 555

 

 

— Missing Children SA and SAPS

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