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Sunday September 8, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday September 8, 2013 MYT 6:52:09 AM
by positive parentingby datuk akhbar satar
The first thing to teach your child is to be aware of his surroundings. It is easy for him to get involved in play and not realise that someone has been sitting in a car watching him for the past hour. – EPA
Learn how to protect your child from dangers that strangers may pose.
CHILDREN are naturally curious and enjoy playing outdoors. Unfortunately, we now live in dangerous times, and child safety can no longer be taken for granted.
Apart from environmental dangers such as drains, traffic and ponds, strangers with malicious intent have also now become a serious threat to a child’s safety.
Take for instance the numerous cases of missing children reported. According to the Royal Malaysian Police, over 4,800 children were reported missing last year between the months of January and October. Less than half have been found, while the rest remain missing. There have even been cases that involved gruesome murders.
Since it is almost impossible for you to maintain constant surveillance on your child, it would be wise to teach him to be street-smart in order for him to be able to deal with different situations.
If your child is vigilant and able to recognise danger, he will be able to take the necessary steps to protect himself. Here are some basic tips to help teach your child how to realise, recognise and react to danger posed by strangers with possibly bad intentions.
1. Be aware
The first thing to teach your child is to be aware of his surroundings. Take a look around every few minutes to spot anything out of the ordinary. It is easy for him to get involved in play and not realise that someone has been sitting in a car watching him for the past hour.
2. Teach stranger safety
Not all strangers have bad intentions; you will need to educate your child on how he should react in order to determine if a stranger is genuinely offering help, or if there is a hidden agenda.
Below are two scenarios where strangers often present themselves to a child when the parents are not around:
·Scenario 1: You are separated from your child at a busy mall. A stranger approaches your child and offers to escort him to the mall’s information desk to have you paged. Should your child follow this stranger, or should he continue looking for you in the mall by himself?
·Scenario 2: Your child is playing outdoors when a stranger approaches him, saying: “Your mommy is hurt, come with me”, or “Your house is on fire and your parents have asked me to come and get you.”
For scenario 1, prepare your child by showing him the location of the information counter of the mall you are visiting. Brief your child on what he should do if you are separated, eg he should seek the nearest information counter to get help.
If your child does not know how to get to this counter and a stranger offers to assist him, advise your child that he may accept the stranger’s help, but he should remain wary at all times and keep some distance away from the stranger.
For scenario 2, let your child know that if he feels threatened by the stranger, then knowing how to call 999 is just the first step. If a phone is not available or if your child needs to quickly escape the situation, he should run away from anyone who poses a threat.
If the stranger grabs your child, he should scream for help as loudly as he can.
In both these scenarios, you must prepare your child by telling him what to do. This is crucial as there may be situations where a stranger’s help may be necessary.
However, your child should also know what to do if he feels threatened by a stranger. Teach your child that strangers may use certain words or scenarios to hurt or lure children away. Let your child know that it is okay to say no to an adult.
3. When the danger is not from a stranger at all
Sometimes, the danger hits closer to home, where even friends, neighbours or family members may pose a danger to your child.
In fact, news reports show that many kidnapping or rape cases are committed by persons known to the child. The potential danger may come from the scenarios below:
·Scenario 1: If the neighbour invites your child inside for a drink, is that okay or does your child need to ask permission first, regardless?
·Scenario 2: If a male relative makes your child feel uncomfortable, what should he/she do?
In both these scenarios, teach your child to trust his instincts. For scenario 1, your child should make it a habit to keep you informed about his whereabouts at all times. Younger children should always seek parental permission before going anywhere.
For scenario 2, ensure that you and your child communicate regularly. Always let your child know that you are available to talk to him/her about anything, especially when someone threatens or misbehaves with him/her. Advise your child know that he/she should reject this person’s advances and get away as quickly as possible.
You may also want to encourage your child to follow these basic safety rules:
·Always tell your parents of your whereabouts.
·When going anywhere, go in a group.
·Never take shortcuts, especially in secluded areas.
·People with bad intentions may not look bad, mean or scary.
·Do not get close to strangers, physically or otherwise.
·Never follow strangers! This includes not helping them look for a lost pet, person or child, and definitely not following them into their vehicle.
·Do not disclose your personal information (name, address, email, phone number, etc.) to strangers.
·Never enter a stranger’s home or office unless you are with a parent.
·If a stranger bothers you, run away.
·If a stranger follows you or grabs for you, scream loudly and try to attract as much attention as you can.
·Always have safe places that you can go to memorised (such as police or fire stations).
·Say “NO!” if anyone tries to touch your body in an unseemly manner.
·If you need help, look for a police officer or teacher.
·No matter where you are, never open the door to strangers.
·Never let strangers know you are home alone, (eg someone calls looking for your parents/siblings, or if a stranger is at your front door).
Advise your child that these rules are meant to ensure their safety, and not from any desire on your part to give them unnecessary rules. If your child is able to carry a smartphone around, then download safety applications onto it such as ‘MyDistress’ and ‘Watch Over Me’.
MyDistress will connect your child straight to the police and Watch Over Me will send an alert out to the emergency contacts on your child’s phone if your child fails to check-in safely on the application.
Keeping your child safe
There is no better substitute for parental supervision, therefore, if you are not around or you’re unable to keep an eye on your child while he is playing outdoors, make sure that your child is accompanied by a trustworthy adult or a responsible older sibling.
Be sure that your children know how to contact you in case of an emergency. Keep a written record of emergency contact numbers on your child at all times. It is important that our children are conscious of their safety when away from home.
> Datul Akhbar Satar is the director & senior research fellow at the Institute of Crime & Criminology, HELP University. This article is a courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme. The opinion expressed in the article is the view of the author. For further information, please visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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Health, column, child health, stranger danger
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