Health

Published: Sunday December 22, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday December 22, 2013 MYT 8:06:05 AM

Positive Parenting: Stranger danger

Tell your child to always let you know where they are going. – AFP

Tell your child to always let you know where they are going. – AFP

Here are some tips to help keep your children safe from those who mean them harm.

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 Malaysia 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.

As it is almost impossible for you to maintain constant surveillance on your child, it would be wise to teach them to be street-smart so that they are able to deal with different situations.

Make it a practice to point out the information counter to your child whenever you visit a shopping mall, so that they know where they can go for help if they are separated from you. ¿ Filepic
Make it a practice to point out the information counter to your child whenever you visit a shopping mall, so that they know where they can go for help if they are separated from you. – Filepic

Stay vigilant

If your child is vigilant and able to recognise danger, they will be able to take the necessary steps to protect themselves quickly.

Here are some basic tips to help teach your child how to realise, recognise, and react to danger posed by strangers with possible bad intentions:

1. Be aware

The first thing to teach your child is to be aware of their surroundings.

Take a look around every few minutes to spot anything out of the ordinary.

It is easy for them to get involved in play and not realize that someone has been sitting in a car watching them for the past hour.

2. Teach stranger safety

Not all strangers have bad intentions; you will need to educate your child on how they should react in order to determine if a stranger is genuinely offering help, or if they have a hidden agenda.

Below are two scenarios where strangers often present themselves to a child in the absence of parents:

  • Scenario one:

You are separated from your child at a busy mall. A stranger approaches your child and offers to escort them to the mall’s information desk to have you paged.

Should your child follow this stranger, or should they continue looking for you in the mall by themselves?

  • Scenario two:

Your child is playing outdoors when a stranger approaches them 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 one, prepare your child in advance by showing them the location of the mall’s information counter when you get there.

Brief your child on what they should do if you are separated, e.g. they 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 them, advise your child that they may accept the stranger’s help, but to remain wary at all times and to keep some distance away from them.

For scenario two, let your child know that if they feel 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, they should run away from the stranger who poses a threat.

If the stranger grabs your child, they should scream for help as loud as they can.

In both these scenarios, you must prepare your child by telling them 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 they feel 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

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 one:

If the neighbour invites your child inside for a drink, is that okay or does your child need to ask permission first, regardless?

  • Scenario two:

If a male relative makes your child feel uncomfortable, what should they do?

In both these scenarios, teach your child to trust their instincts.

For scenario one, your child should make it a habit to keep you informed about their whereabouts at all times. Younger children should always seek parental permission before going anywhere.

For scenario two, ensure that you and your child have a healthy line of communication. Always let your child know that you are available to talk to them about anything, especially when someone threatens or misbehaves with them.

Advise your child know that they should reject this person’s advances and get away as quickly as possible.

Basic safety

You may also want to encourage your child to follow these basic safety rules:

  • Always tell your parents of your whereabouts.
  • Always go anywhere 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 helping them look for a lost pet, person or child, and definitely not 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.
  • Memorise safe places that you can go to, like 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.
  • If you are home alone, never let strangers know (e.g. 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 allowed 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 substitute for parental supervision.

Therefore, if you are not around or 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 child knows how to contact you in case of an emergency.

Keep a written record of emergency contact numbers on them at all times.

It is important that our children are always conscious of their safety against dangers, whether from strangers or otherwise.

Datuk Akhbar Satar is the Director & Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Crime & Criminology in HELP University. This article is courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners: Nutrition Society of Malaysia, Obstetric and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia, Malaysian Mental Health Association, Malaysian Psychiatric Association, National Population and Family Development Board Malaysia, Malaysian Association of Kindergartens and Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia. The opinion expressed in the article is the view of the author. For further information, please visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The Positive Parenting E-magazine is also available on our website. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information. The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely that of the author’s. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Tags / Keywords: Health, Health, Child health, safety

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