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Hmm well this is an interesting topic!
'Keeping your child safe from the outside world'. So many ways to interpret it, so many answers, so many questions.
Read the tabloids and any parent will almost certainly wonder what they were thinking bringing a child into this world. Wars, stabbings, rape, murder, drugs, guns and child abuse. I could go on and on.
But, is it really anything new? Or is it more widely reported? Do we have anything extra to fear in our modern world, than say our parents did when we were children?
Personally, I think the answer is yes and no.
Raising a child used to be a family and community challenge. You knew your neighbours, their family, their children. People put down roots and stayed there for generations. You couldn't sneeze without someone else knowing.
Nowadays, we are more likely to uproot, move to where there are jobs. It's common for both parents to work, or for children to be brought up by seperated parents, which often results in a move.
How many of your neighbours do you know?
Bad news = bigger headlines = more readers through fear. The media caught up on this and so we hear regularly of all the attrocities committed in our country, and throughout the world.
I'm a big fan of reading News and keeping up to date but I get incredibly frustrated at the wishy-washy journalism in play.
Facts are often not checked, the headlines scream out at you making you think there is a an abductor or abuser on every corner, waiting to snatch your child.
What is often not reported is how often abuse etc happens within our own family/social circle. That is uncomfortable reading I know, it's uncomfortable to write it. It needs reporting though.
I am not for one minute suggesting that we all suddenly trust no one and become reclusive to protect our beautiful children.
What I am saying is, don't kow-tow to the popular tabloid ethos of the man on the corner with the shifty eyes.
We should all be aware, we should all take as much caution as we can, but we should all LIVE.
I don't want to walk outside and look at everyone suspiciously like they will rip my son away from me.
We have to find a balance. We have to teach our children about balance. Teach them not to fear everyone, but also not to have no fear of anything.
Growing up now, children need to be more savvy then we ever did.
Personally, I think the age old advice still applies and is plentiful:
Don't talk to strangers
Don't accept sweets
Don't get in a car with anyone you don't know
To me, that is still as good a starting point as any.
Keeping your child safe from the outside world. Boy what a topic to talk about. You dont know what to do for the best. Do you wrap them in cotton wool, let them go to school and not let them out of the house until they are 16, or do you let them be a child, have a decent childhood. I think I would have to be in the middle. There are so many things out there that can hurt or harm your child. One of those has to be abuse, and I think the only way you can manage this is by sitting down with your child, and talk about what to do, and I know it would be a difficult situation, but you need to gain the trust of your child, so that if anything like that ever did happen, then they could go to you.
I gave my kids the best childhood I could. They did have limits though. I wanted to know where they were at all times, they were only allowed a certain limit away from the house, and they had a set time for them to be in the house, before it got dark usually. It is difficult, but it is also something that has to be done.
I think that there are two big things that you can do to protect your child from being abused without wrapping them in cotton wool and ruining their childhood.
The first thing you can do is educate them.
So many people are so concerned with preserving a child's "innocence" that they don't want their child to know about things that could help them protect themselves and help you to protect them.
A child needs to be able to speak openly to their parents about sex. If your child can't approach you about sex then how could they tell you if someone does something inappropriate?
If a child doesn't know about sex how will they know if they are being sexually abused? I'm not saying that you should give your children all of the details about sex but they should know a few basics, like that it's not okay for adults to touch them in private places or for them to touch adults. It's of course a delicate subject and guidance is available from charities like the NSPCC about what to tell your children and how best to do it.
The second thing I think all parents should do (all people really but especially parents) is know the signs of abuse.
I think parents should trust their instincts. A parent usually knows their child well enough to know when something is wrong.
The signs of physical abuse can be pretty obvious...bruises, cuts etc. There are also often behavioural signs that a child is being sexually abused. A physically abused child may be fearful, shy away from being touched or be excessively shy.
The signs of sexual abuse can also be both physical and behavioural.
Physical signs can be bleeding in the genital area, showing signs of pain when sitting down, bruises or swelling in the genital area.
If a child shows sexually harmful behaviour or sexual behaviour that's inappropriate for their age that can be a sign that they've been abused. Destructive behaviour might also be an indicator.
I think the most important thing is to listen to your child.
Keeping our children safe from the outside world is a good thing but also a bad thing. We are wrapping them up in so much cotton wool, that they are not learning the important lessons. Yes we should protect our children, but if you smother them too much what life skills are they learning? Then when they go off into the world on their own they are clueless and vunerable. Obviously it is harder than in my parents day to let your kids play outside. You hear so many cases of paedofiles, and kidnappings, but actually the amount of cases hasn't increased. It is just that we are more aware of it all now. I think that it has all gone a bit too far. I have heard some poor fathers verbally attacked by some mothers, who are paranoid that they are paedofiles!! Come on people, they are parents too. Don't be so paranoid. Let your children play safely, but freely.
Talk about a contentious issue! Still, its certainly relevant to us parents, especially with all the recent coverage of alleged child abduction, kidnapping, holding of children hostage for years in basements, and child-trafficking. Frightening, of course, but is the supposed danger simply media scaremongering? How do we, as parents and carers, ensure that we take a responsible line in protecting our children, but also enabling them to have freedoms like we did as kids.
I was born in 1980, and I remember my Mum and Dad having few qualms about allowing me to play out the front of the house, with friends, probably from the age of 7. I was even entrusted with my younger brother (about 4 years difference), and felt obliged to kept an eye on all the younger kiddies. My parents educated me in the threat of strangers, but I was never terrified of people outside of the home- I had a healthy wariness, thats all. I think the adults of my childhood had three main concerns about us playing in the street, and these worries are essentially the same issues that we ponder today, as modern day parents.
1. Road Traffic
2. Abduction/The Stranger Threat
3. Wandering too far/Mucking About and Having a Nasty Accident.
So, what has changed? Why are we so scared to allow our children out of our sight? My parents always trusted us to stay within eye and earshot, and that belief in us was enough for us to enjoy our freedom and not abuse it. I know its a cliche, but my parents knew most of the neighbours that surrounded our terraced house, and pretty much all of the parents who had kiddies. The other parents would check on us from time to time, and we would trudge in and out of each others homes getting our obligatory drinks, food, and toys stash. Of course, thinking back, I can think of a few shady adults who lived or walked up our street and said hello to us- people who would strike the fear of God into us parents now, should we encounter them chatting with our little ones. So, did my parents just have more faith in human nature than me? My parents lived through the Hindley and Brady Moors Murders, and my Dad was abused by a man posing as a policeman in the 1950s, so surely they must have had the same fears as we do?
When I analyse my behaviour in public with my 4 year old, I think Im very vigilant and cannot stand to lose sight of her for one moment. I once took her to a bouncy castle day in a large Essex park, and I momentarily found her merge into a crowd of youngers- my heart pounded, my mind was absorbed in rising panic as I scanned the park enclosure. That feeling was awful, and I cannot explain the sense of relief I felt when a friend had found Amelia panicking, like her old Mum, but instead at the top of a crazy bouncy castle! I pretty much always expect her to hold my hand or stay very close to me in the town centre, and I actually find myself getting quite angry and snappy if she disappears out of sight for a minute. I mean, is this normal, or is it a reaction to the moral panics reported in the media? I would be lying if I said Madeline McCanns disappearance didnt affect me. However, shoot me down in flames for saying what I think, but I wouldnt have left my child in an appartment alone...simple as (although of course they didnt deserve their child being abducted!...it just seems daft to tempt paedophiles etc by leaving your child unattended). I might add, I wouldnt leave my child in my home alone for 10 minutes whilst I popped to the corner shop for some milk- tucked up in bed or not.
Anyway, my kiddie is 4 years old, and I cant justify leaving her unattended for any period of time in a public place. It feels wrong, it panics me, and that worry comes from somewhere. Its such a shame really, but I dont want to take a chance with my daughter. She is allowed to go to friends houses where a Mum will watch her, I take her to the park, the library, the towncentre, etc, but she cant play out the front of our flat. No way. That is a risk Im not prepared to take, because I couldnt live with myself if she got hurt, and it was avoidable.
I personally think that, in the modern day, we need to support our children to become confident adolescents and adults. So, when they are young, they need structured extra curricular activities, without their parents, so that they can spread their wings a bit. Surely that must be the compromise? You cant smoother your kids and stifle their development, thats just grossly unfair, but freedoms have to be tempered with responsible adult boundaries and control. Its sad, but gone are the days when I would feel comfortable allowing a 7 year old to have a run about in a park or field alone. Thats just my view. However, we all want the best for our kids, dont we? Only thing is, what exactly is THE BEST?
Thanks for reading my opinion!
Our kids these days are growing up with no idea of life in the real world and this is primarily because we shelter them from it. We hear every day of kids being abducted, murdered etc in the media and it frightens us to the point where we won't even let our kids play at the front of our houses anymore, its very sad.
I have 2 children myself aged 9 and 5 and to be honest, I don't think child abductions etc happen any more frequently now than they ever have, I think it is just that we hear about it more because we all have TV's. There is more danger to your child from the massive increase in cars and lorries on our roads than there is from them being abducted by someone.
I have always taught my children that they CAN talk to strangers, there is never any danger to your child from simply talking to someone and there may be times they have to talk to a stranger, a policeman for instance if they get lost? I have taught my children instead that they can talk to anyone but if anyone tried to take them somewhere or asks them to go somewhere with them, they must come and tell me first
Keeping your children safe from the massive amount of risks involved with the outside world can be a difficult task to acheive. There is a wide range of issues which you wouldn't want your children getting involved in, from drugs and crime to teenage pregnancy to the side effects of alcohol misuse.
In my own personal experince as a child, my parents always did their best to hide me away from the outside world, but did it in a way that would keep me prisoner. They didn't want me going out, they kept me in the house as much as they could, they moved away from the main town and city areas to get away from drugs and violence and they wanted to know where I was and what I was doing for every second of every day.
This is the wrong way of going about things. Instead of talking to me directly and educating me of their worries and concerns they kept those things to themselves and did their best to constantly watch over me like protective Gods.
Despite what a lot of parents may think, taking this approach actually leads a child on to being more intrigued and interested in these dangerous aspects of life. By the time I was seventeen I found myself fascinated with the world of drugs, crime and violence although I had never had a taste of it. I began looking for an escape route from the prisoner like situation that my parents had put me under and started hanging around and making friends with people who did use drugs, alcohol and violence and years later found myself living on the streets and addicted to crack cocaine. The single most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life is get off this lethal life changing drug.
Children are inquisitive and will ask you for all sorts of information and your opinions on several subjects. I think the best approach is to be completely honest and open with your children. Explain everything to them, show them the good points and the bad points to everything in life. If you don't, they will go out there and find the answers for themselves using first hand experience. Something, which you don't necessarily want for them.
Keeping children safe from the outside world can be a full time job. I thought by sending my child to puclic school I would be doing the right thing. I though he would recieve an excellent education and the teachers would control the amount of negative he encountered. I was very wrong. My child was coming home every day from school upset. Even though he had friends, there was a group of kids that were picking on him and being mean. He did not know how to adjust to this kind of behavior. I complained and the behavior continued. I complained more and more. This went on for 2 years until I just had enough. My child was vomitting every morning just because he did not want to go to school. I pulled him out and have begun a homeschool regimen that works great for us. He is involved in YMCA sports and we joined a church with other home schooled children and numberous outside activites. I thought protecting my child from the outside world won't happen until he was a teenager. I didn't realize that I would have to start when he was 8 protecting him from bullies at public school.
It is every parents nightmare to have their children go missing, even when it is for only a few minutes while at the supermarket when the wander off in search of the sweetie aisle there is that sense of panic, dread, hysteria and a ball of pain that starts to grow in the pit of your stomach.
The important thing is to get a sense of balance into a childs life, you cannot totally wrap them in cotton wool and then expect them to mature into a well balanced individual, they need to have exposure to the outside world for them to grow and learn. It is important that they are able to communicate with strangers and some of these will be friends and partners in the future and whether it is in the workplace or at school or during a period of travel at some point in time they will be on their own and having to cope with different situations.
Education is the most effective tool for protecting children. We all know the adage "Don't talk to strangers" but it is important for a child to understand why thi is so and what is acceptable. Whilst you cannot stereotype children need to be able to identify thiose individuals who in all probablitity it is safer to approach if they are lost, such as those in uniforms or couples with other children.
One thing I have fund particularly useful is ensuring that young children have your contact details on their person, if visiting a park or any other crowded open space my children wear wristbands with my mobile number on them. These were issued a couple of years ago in a joint venture between GMTV and the Nationwide Building Society and arre useful when coupled with the right education for your children in providing a little peace of mind.
Finally vigilance is also important ensuring that where possible you keep a watch on your children and look out for those things that might attract their attention away from you.
When teaching children to be wary, they often take your lead easily. You don't have to tell them the facts about why they can't talk to strangers, and its unwise to tell them because the facts you give them can be manipulated by predators. But generally children will follow your lead. When it comes to teenage years they grow more aware, and they grow more paranoid, which is why you need to explain differentiations between good adults and bad adults- you have to really qualify the expression "respect for your elders" as meaning nothing more than respect for the adults you know and who know you and have your best interests at heart. Of course there is basic respect for all, but the above refers to respect for their authority- their right to raise their voice to you, their right to punish you, their right to compell you to answer to their accusations, their right to control who you interact with. These rights do not apply to just any adult. Unless you are on their property, if a stranger raises their voice to you, its aggressive behaviour and the teenager should scream for help and threaten police action, any accusations or unreasonable orders from an adult you have no relationship with or position to negotiate understanding with (i.e. a policeman bound by regulations and serving public trust) is mental abuse, and again the teenager should scream for help. This is doubly important at a time when youth of today is getting a bad rap worse than ever before, and adults are being encouraged to discipline children who are not their own (this would be fine as long as they only practiced this in response to the sight of actual violence, unfortunately there are many nutters and fanatics who attack any display of extroversion they feel threatened by, and that is a madness and terrorising that no youth should be exposed to, if they end up being submissive and having polluted thoughts of helpless anger which will only make them think of reveng
e and negativity) But of course you also have to qualify what is acceptable treatment from the elders they do know. Its not just teaching them facts, but routines and procedures. The hierarchy of reactions and what leads to a crossed line. That they must be absolutes and not open to compromise in a kind of "I want to pretend that never happened" kind of way. When a teenager says to their parent "you touch me, I'll sue you", they are not just trying to get away with something, they are voicing their paranoia about an uncertain world where anyone can be a predator, including their parents. And they are trying to build some level of security around themselves with those hostile outbursts. Children are brought up in a youth media were tit for tat revenge is glorified. In this day and age kids who are smacked, at some point hit back- and the family is never the same afterwards. This means you have to make steps quickly to get into their world again and regain their trust, otherwise it is likely they will seek security in local gangs who will feed them with notions of masculinised indestructibility that they will be encouraged to prove repeatedly with violent and criminal acts. You have to explain the contradictions to them- why its forgiveable for kids in the schoolyard to hit each other, but anywhere else an assault is a crime. The trouble is parents are no longer the centrepiece of the house, now its the TV or the radio or gamessystem, and parents are and unwanted invasion and both the TV and radio and games system feed teenage paranoia with their reinforcing visions and lyrics of a violent and hostile society that pride demands that they can't turn away from. The media is a constantly developing view of the world and of appropriate behaviour, full of contradictions, reinforced myths and exaggerations. The thing about TV is that it can boost a child's or a teenager's confidence with empowering im
ages and characters, but it can also feed paranoia's and insecurities, at a time when growing awareness, sexual confusion and developing thoughts. The media has both a positive and negative effect. It has raised awareness of problems in society, like domestic violence, child abuse and that they are wrong. The thing is, through the media, people of a particular race, age, gender, sexuality, and all their stereotypical behaviour are portrayed in approving and disapproving light, whether demonised or satirised, and perceptions change, and certain things are re-integrated and tolerated. Teenagers learn to be ashamed, or learn to be too forgiving of maltreatment. I believe that too often music and films which are seemingly made for confused youth, are actually made by confused artists. A lot of harmful myths are sold to children through the media- the myth that sexism is little more than a comfortable annoyance, like a best friend's bad habit, rather than a dehumanising viewpoint which can be very dangerous and form violent mentalities, that trying to court (or even trying to interact at all with) the opposite sex is always a sleazy act, which makes teenagers who seek romance feel dirty and unloveable, or the myth that old men who are grumpy are funny and have just cause for getting angry and don't actually go out and bother people, when in fact plenty of them do, just like any other angry people and aggressive people and can emotionally scar young people without even touching them. That's why restrictions have to be made, but if you're going to deprive their entertainment and their social circles you have to provide them with healthy alternatives, with entertainment that doesn't confuse them, nor does it make them feel guilty for the range of sexual emotions that go through their head at this age. And you have to reassure your position of protector for them. If you want to keep them safe from the outside world, yo
u have to make the sa nc tuarised world you offer them as appealing as possible. Paranoia endan gers people. It makes them awkward and socially repellant when around social circles that could keep them safe. Fear without wisdom or confi dent action is nothing short of paralysis, which makes it virtually impossible to react the right way to an attack. And their aliennation will lead them to see parent figures in other adults who may be harmful to them, or may make them feel unwanted. And as a side effect of paranoia, the mind may find ways to forge trust in a desperate need for security and will think of ways to excuse maltreatments they may suffer from people they want to trust and are ashamed to badmouth. The most important thing a parent must do with their children is listen to them and encourage dialogue as much as possible. So many teenagers are too shy to speak their minds, are ashamed of their words, but the words they say are very important. They must question the state of being, they must tell you their experiences or actions honestly so you can quickly clamp down on anything negative they have suffered or perpetrated before it goes too far. Teenagers often want personal space from their parents, but often the more space you give them, the more lost they can become.
It seems Halloween is almost upon us, although I have to say even as a child I never found the whole idea an entertaining one. Call me a big girls blouse, but I always found all this talk of ghosts and witches not so much chilling as rather odd, especially as we rope the kids in to help celebrate the event. You spend all year reading them bed time stories and telling them not to have nightmares and then Halloween arrives. Suddenly it seems they are encouraged to dress as Frankenstein, blood and all, and they actually start to think that witches with broom sticks just might exist. This year is different for us, in the past my kids were too young to get involved in the whole thing, it mean't nothing to them, but now we find ourselves faced with a dilema that no doubt others have also had to face. I'm talking about this whole 'trick or treating' thing. My four year old's friends mother has asked us if we would like to take the kids trick or treating along their road. I don't think this is just another one of those occasions where parents have to accept that their child is growing up and becoming more independent, where a little more freedom is advised, this is a contentious issue which I'm sure will split those of you who read this. Would you let your four year old go out in the dark, all be it with adults present, and encourage them to knock on total strangers doors and expect to be given treats? In the USA. Halloween is a big deal and it seems everyone gets involved. The internet has loads of websites where you can buy costumes, and if you can't afford them, sites that can give you tips on making them. In the states it's not just about dressing up as a 'nasty' creature, kids are encouraged to dress up as just about anything, a frog, a fairy, even a box of French Fries, and they take the whole trick or treating thing very seriously. One web site I came across has a printable trick Or treat licence whi
ch flags up all the main safety issues involved. It's all pretty straight forward, trick or treat in a group, plan a safe route, walk don't run, stay off the road, wear a costume that won't get tangled around the feet and legs and avoid wearing a mask that stops you seeing properly, wear a bright costume that can be seen and reflective tape, and remember to say "please" and "thankyou" to "treaters". However, it's the last two rules that cause real concern, never enter a strangers house, and get an adult to check treats before eating them. The fact is, as nice and as fun an idea as trick or treating might seem to kids, the reality is that we don't live in a totally kid safe world, and there are some not very nice people out there. The whole community may get geared up with mountains of sweets to hand out on halloween in the U.S, but are we all so keen over here. Don't tell me some of you don't dread a knock at the door, and has anyone been sprayed in the face by a fiftenn year old carrying a water pistol! Actually, I'm sure your a really nice person and you go out and buy sweets and get into the spirit of it all, but does everyone? I have a neighbour in the house next to ours who ignores you to your face, never says hello, and who has driven agressively amost into our car one day when we stopped briefly outside his house. He is a very odd person, he lives alone, and these days we blank him. So far we haven't had to explain to the kids who are 2 and 4 that they mustn't speak to him. How will he react to kids knocking on his door asking for treats? How many other people are there in the community that if you knew somethging of them, you would avoid at all costs. You certainly wouldn't have your kids knock on their door. So here it is, I'm not happy to let my kids trick or treat. You may live on an estate where everyone knows each other. Perhaps the kids w
ill o nly knock on those doors of people they know. Thats fine, but I just feel knocking on strangers doors is, well it's 'bang' out of order and something I really don't want to encourage. There are parents who are holding Halloween parties, and I think this is a much better idea. Keep the kids inside where they are safe and warm, where you know who they are with, and where thay can have fun getting dressed up in a 'spooky' environment with games, scary loud music, low budget green light bulbs, rubber spiders dangling, apple bobbing, a glass of wine for the grown ups and for a really scary sight, mum without her make up! I mean, whats wrong with that! Of course you might get a fright when you see the mess you have to clear up afterwards, but I think this is a much better idea than kids going out on a cold dark night, with all those potential dangers waiting round the corner. Well I think I've said everything I wanted to say, and I hope I haven't cast too much of a dark spell on the subject of halloween. I'm off on my broom stick to get the shopping. Now let me see what was it I needed to get, a toad, some mice, a couple of eye balls, an orange worm and some swamp slime.
***** update due to recent information ***** I would like us all to take a moment's silence for the two little girls Holly and Jessica. I have wanted to express my feelings for a few days but it is such a difficult thing to imagine, let alone write about. How can our society allow such things to happen? How can we prevent it from happening again? I don't think we can. Holly and Jessica were two ordinary little girls; they had friends, family and a stable home life. They had nothing to run away from and so many things to live for. They were bright, happy and have a love of life. They were avid Manchester United fans and their hero is David Beckam. Like so many other children they had dreams of meeting their hero. I do not know the children personally, or their families but that doesn't mean that I cannot grieve for them. Their parents did everything they could to protect these children and keep them safe. They bought them mobile phones, they told them not to talk to strangers. The children were told to ask permission before they went out and to always inform their parents where they were going. They had access to the Internet and the parents kept a close eye on what sites they visited and who they contacted with via email. If they went out they had to be home for a certain time and they always told their parents if they were going to be late or ask if they could stay out a little bit longer. Where did they go wrong? Nowhere! They, as parents did everything they possibly could to keep their children from danger. Sadly it wasn't enough. It should have been. What is it like in your home now? Do you act differently with your children? I k now I do. My daughter is only 9 but she has a mobile phone and I won't let her play out on her own. She plays around the back with her friends but I cannot rela
x while she is not in the house. I say to her, 'if I can't see you or hear you, then you're too far away' I am frightened that I will stifle her, that she will become a prisoner in her own home. How can we give our children the freedom that they need and keep them safe? All I can do is have her friends around and let them play in the house as much as possible. If the weather is nice then I will sit outside in the back yard where I can see or hear her. I will take her to the park or out to visit friends and relatives who have children. I was talking to a friend of mine last night about how many material possessions children today have. It is far more than we ever had as children but then we could play outside. We could play hide and seek and tig run away. We could go in to the fields and search for frogs and collect frogs spawn in our little buckets. We would walk for hours and take picnics in the fields, could you imagine letting your child do this now? No, I didn't think so. So what do we do? We buy them things. We buy them computers and games consoles, televisions and video's. We spend our money trying to keep them at home so they are safe. We can only truly relax when our children are in our sight. People will often remark how spoilt they are and we often do it our self, but is the Childs fault? We are the ones who spoil them. We don't do it intentionally and I think we probably don't even realise it but if you sit down and think about all the things you have bought your child and examine the reason why you, will be surprised. I was considering buying my daughter a new bike for Christmas but now I'm not sure. I can't let her go for a bike ride on her own, it wouldn't be safe. I would have to go wi th her and walk, as riding a bike with my back condition is too painful. I shouldn't have to think like this; my worry should be is she going to fall off?
Is the bike to big? Not, is she going to come home? My stepson has just come to stay with us and he has got himself a paper round. I am so pleased with him and he is trying so hard. As he is almost 14 I don't worry about him being out on his own as much as I do my daughter but the worry is still there. I remember the paperboy who went missing years ago and I always tell him to be careful and do his round and come straight home. Luckily he only does it near the street where we live and he is a pretty sensible lad. I shouldn't have to warn him about the dangers. Again the only thing I can do is make sure that he can always contact us, via mobile. Tell him that if he thinks anyone is following him to knock on the door of a friend or neighbour. There are plenty of people in the area that we know and he could go to. Tell him, if it's dark to take a torch and not to take a short cut down any back alleys. Above all don't get in anybody's car, even if he is struggling with the papers. I worry about them both but in different ways, I think you tend to worry about a girl more although these days it seems that no one is safe. You used to think that children were safe in numbers, I'm always telling my daughter to stay close to her friends and if no one else is playing then she should come home. If someone can take two little girls in what appears to be broad daylight, what hope do we have? I have spoke to my daughter about Holly and Jessica and it wasn't easy. I don't want to worry her so that she becomes too frightened to enjoy her childhood and avoid the outside world but she has to know that it's not always safe. I have told her the obvious about not talking to strangers, not getting in their car, not taking sweets etc, but it's not just strangers is it. Sadly children can be abducted, abused and murdered by people they know. You cannot start to put doubt in a childs mind by telling them everyo
ne is potentially dangerous; I think they would become psychotic. All I think you can do is tell them even if it's a neighbour or someone that mum or dad knows that they shouldn't go anywhere with them unless mum or dad has told them first. I always tell my daughter who will pick her up from school, I tell her that the only people who can collect her without warning is Mum, Dad, Grandma or Grandad. Anyone else who says your mum has told me to come and get you shouldn't be trusted, even if it is someone you know! We have to educate our children about the dangers but without causing them any emotional distress and this is the most difficult thing to do. Above all we have not got to panic. A child can tell if a parent is upset or panicking and it will make them nervous. Tell them that it is very rare for anything bad to happen but it is POSSIBLE, tell them to use their common sense and if something doesn't feel right then don't do it. Even children have instinct and can use it. If someone tries to touch them somewhere that's private older children will sense that it is wrong. I'm not saying it will be easy to stop it or to tell someone if it happens but they must always know that they can come to their parents and tell them. I don't want to go in to details but a boy at school kept asking my daughter to do things, things that an 8 year old should definitely not get up to! I know about this because she told me, she said that what he was asking her to do made her feel bad and she didn't like it. She remembered that I told her to always be honest and tell me if anything happened to her. She said she didn't want to lie to me and she would feel better if she told me. I felt sick to the bottom of my stomach but I stayed calm and ma naged to get the information out of her at her own pace. She was upset but she felt better for sharing it with me. Of course I contacted the school and they asked the boy in
question and he denied it. I know my daughter was telling the truth, as it's not the type of thing an eight year old would make up and get upset about. Her friend also told me on the way home from school one day that he did the same thing to her, without any prompting or conversation for me first. She just told me she was trying to stay away from him because of the things that he did. All I could do, bearing in mind the lack of help from the school was to tell my daughter to trust her own instincts, to say away from him and if he suggested anything to her again that she should tell a teacher straight away. I had another issue to deal with here though. How do I educate my daughter about the facts of life at 8 years old without making her think that this kind of thing wasn't natural under the right circumstances. When my daughter is older and in a relationship I don't want her to be affected by something I said to her as a child. I simply told her that kissing etc should be done between two people that love and care for each other, like Mum and Dad. That when she was older and had a boyfriend who she loved it would be ok and that it would feel right to her. She understood and I think that children can surprise us with their understanding in many ways. Talking is the way forward but I appreciate its not that easy. The modern world that we live in means that our children grow up much more quickly, the clothes and make up that they were for example, even their attitude and their knowledge far surpasses what ours was at the same age. Did you know how to use a computer at 8 years old? I didn't. The Internet is a wonderful tool and most schools include the use of the Internet at school and at home. I personally would not allow my children to have Internet access in a private bedroom. I have come across porn sites (quite by accident, honestly!) myself. Even I was shocked! I don't use chat rooms other tha
n the tooyoo facility and I wouldn't advise my children to use them either. I think they are just far too risky. It's a sad fact of life but we have no way of verifying who is actually typing the messages. I know there are risks in all that we do, even when children go to school. All we can do as parents is our best. I don't want people to turn round to me and say that you can't stop children from using the Internet and it's no different to letting them cross the road as they could get hit by a bus, It is! Why I should I put my children in more danger than they need to be. When they are older I won't be able to stop them but until then I will do my best to protect them even if people think I am neurotic. I would rather be neurotic and watch my children gown up safely and happily than be visiting a grave every week because I became complacent with their safety. As long as I know that I am doing my best as Holly and Jessica's parents did I can live with myself. They have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to feel guilty about. They are responsible parents that did the best by their children. It is the scum out there who go about abducting and hurting our children who are guilty. They should have their freedom taken away like our children are having theirs taken away. Those who take the life of a child should not live another day. I don't want to go in to the argument about corporal punishment as that is another story but I for one would like to see these perverted B******* rot in hell. MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH HOLLY, JESSICA AND THEIR FAMILIES. NOW THAT THE FUNERALS HAVE TAKEN PLACE MAY THEYB REST IN ETERNAL PEACE.
After reading a terrible op about an attempted abduction I thought that I would write to tell you all a true story that happened to a friend of mine. No names will be real because I cannot and will not be responsible for anyone who may read this and possibly know them and maybe mention something as all my friend wants to do is put this behind him and get on with his family. I had a friend who lived about five doors away from my parents house. Well I lived there for about 20 years so I knew almost everyone that lived there. Most were good people just like in any street in any town that you may think of . Well my friend ( I think that I will call him John) had lived there for quite a while with his wife and family and his youngest child was a three year old girl. We will call her Amy. Anyway they were very close and she was a true daddy?s girl wanting to go everywhere with him. Well he was a very caring father and whenever he went out after work he would take his daughter with him as she loved trundling along behind him on her little bike. Being only young she still had that angelic way about her like she could do no wrong and at that age they generally do not. She was never allowed to even play out the front of the house in the garden by herself and they took great care and paid a lot attention to her. Like most of us she was allowed to play in her own back garden and that was safe as the only access was by a path between their house and the neighbours and anyone using this would be in full view. One day a real storm blew up on this quiet little street. Police were everywhere and no-one was allowed near without risk of being warned about getting arrested. So after things died down I was at another friends who lived just around the corner. Mick for this one. We were sitting having a cuppa when John comes and he was in a state. He sat down and had a cuppa with us and told us the following events that happened that day. His next d
oor neighbours I will call Ben (about 44), Gerry (about 47) and their mum say Lisa (about 70). Well john tells us first that his wife phoned him at work to tell him to get home straight away because it was important and something has happened to their daughter. Naturally he was worried but she said that she couldn?t stay on the phone because she needed to be with the bairn and keep an eye out for the police. Well he hurries home to find police all over the place. What he told us next and what I am about to say shocked us all, so much so in fact I felt physically ill. Well he told us that his wife had let the daughter in the back garden and she was doing some house work. She then went out to check on her and did not notice her at first. Worried she looked around for her then noticed her in her neighbours back garden. She walked through the gate to get her as she often went into the neighbours garden to talk to them. As she approached the neighbour Ben was kneeling in front of her daughter talking to her. As she approached and got a clear view she could see that her daughter had her pants and underwear down while the neighbour was touching her. She screamed at him in shock and he ran into the house. That was when she took her kid into the house and phoned the police then her husband. Well when the police arrived they came in force and as soon as she told them they went straight next door and arrested the perverted little twit. They took him straight to the police station and an officer waited with her till her husband came home. Well they had to go to the police station and file a proper complaint. Apparently they arrested the neighbour for his own protection they claimed because they cannot officially do anything till a formal complaint has been made. They sped straight down to the station to make the complaint so that the police could start to do their job. Well he said that they were there for hours because they had to give statements in
great detail about how often that they knew the neighbour could have had un-noticed contact and with it being a neighbour it could have easil been several times a week. Then they had to try and to get them to talk to their daughter to see what she could tell them about how often this had happened or if this was a one off. It came out that it would happen a couple of times a week and had went unnoticed for at least a few months. Turned out that he used to give her some sweets and called it a game to try and make her stay calm. Deciding that they had been through enough for one day they went home. He arrived home furious and thought of taking it out on the other brother but he then noticed that the house was empty. Not only had the police arrested one brother but they must have contacted the council who owned the house that the neighbours lived in and had moved them out. They had moved them into temporary housing for their own saftey and then removed all of the furniture as well. This only made my friend John feel worse thinking why should they do anything for them. He told his wife that he was popping out and that they were gone and came straight around to see us. I do not think that I need to tell you why he told us, lets just say it?s a good thing that he never got out of a cell and was remanded. Anyway it took nearly eight months before my friend and his family saw anything near justice if that?s what you would call it. He got sentanced to three years in prison but got out after two. John put his house on the market and moved because they could no longer stand living in that hosu that had been a home that they loved. We still see each other sometimes and we both know that things are better left unsaid now unless we were to bump into the person responsible. Not a nice thing to think of at this time of year but DO NOT worry this is unusual at the least but the point that I wanted to mention is that it does not have to be a stranger. Anyone
that walks past you could be a possible attacker or something but you can?t worry about it like that because you would be tormented for the rest of your life. I guess the only thing we can truly do is try and teach our kids to be as careful as possible because we will not always be there to guard over them. Yes this was an extreme case but everyone knew the neighbour and no-one would have thought that of him. How could we guard against this happening again. We cannot. All we can do is try to look out for them but we all let our guards down at times, so we can only try to get the kids to learn that this is wrong and that they should always tell someone. It is impossible to wrap them up in cotton wool so we all must do the best we can. The one thing that I think is wrong is the way that they get prosecuted. Luckily she was young and may grow up with no recollection of it, but he could have caused her torment for years to come. The victims can have problems for years so why do they get sentenced so lightly then get out to get put on a sex offenders list. A well known paer has just named and shamed more of them that have never bothered to show up and dissapeared that were meant to be on this list. They could have been doing this again now. This is not a crime like theft that someone is going to spend a bit time beyond bars and be rehabilitated. With a car they can go anywhere and try it again and unless they are caught who will know it was them. Personally I think this needs further tougher sentencing. Newly released criminals or people on bail are sometimes required to wear electronic tags that can pinpoint their whereabouts. This is what I would think would be a better alternative as they can track them at any time and if they remove the teg this sets off an alarm so the police can be after them straight away. At least this way they could track them to the scenes of crimes that are reported and this would work for other major offenders like
people who prey on the elderly or rapists. Make them pay for it longer by tougher sentencing then keep track of them closer when they get out. If one kid has to pay that price to bring them to attention then why should another have to for us to see that they are not born again christians like they may try to preach. Why wait for another to pay that price. Actions speak louder than words so make them prove that they are not going to do this again. Personally if I could write a law on this then if people are proved like in this situation that they were guilty beyond a shadow of doubt that I would make a simple law. Castrate them. If they had nothing to be aroused then maybe there would be less chance of them doing it again, but then I would still jail them with sentences at least double to triple what they get now and then keep them under close scrutiny afterwards as well. One final thing this happened a few years ago now and life goes on though it is never truly forgotten. It is Christmas so do not worry yourselves about anything I may have wrote. Like I said this sort of case is rare. Our kids are the future of this world so they should be given a bit more consideration that they get from these sort of people. This is something that needs further addressing but not today and not at this time of year. Go enjoy your Christmas holidays, give your kids an extra cuddle and enjoy your time together. Have a happy new year for things can be as good as we want them to be and 2002 is just around the corner. Well things can only get better.
Errrr...hello. I don't usually write opinions in Kids and Family, because I don't actually have any (kids, that is.) But before you dismiss me as a complete novice or decide that I am probably trying to teach my Grandmother to suck eggs, I'd like to give you an idea about a little project for the weekend. It's called "Saving Your Kids" and is based on months of research into child safety issues that I recently conducted with almost 500 parents. Now, if you are a parent, you will no doubt have drummed into your children the dangers of talking to strangers. Warned them about taking sweets and presents from strangers, of taking lifts from strangers, of going off with strangers to look at puppies, kittens or because Mummy has had an accident and is in hospital. Yet, before you get too complacent, I'd like to share some quotes with you. Please bear in mind that these quotes come directly from the mouths of babes and innocents, so are not as 'politically correct' as they might be - for that, I apologise in advance. Question: "What is a Stranger?" George, aged 5: "A man who wears ladies dresses." Daisy aged 5: "A man who lives in the wardrobe and eats naughty girls." Jessica aged 8: "A person who comes from another country." Harry aged 6: "My mummy because she smokes cigarettes." Ian aged 8: "Someone with different coloured skin." Elise aged 7: "An ugly thing". Paul, aged 5: "You use it to tip water out of potatoes" (Yes, he had heard the question properly!) Are you getting the idea? I recently interviewed 50 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old and, while every single one of them had been warned about 'Stranger Danger', more than three-quarters of them could not satisfactorily define the word "Stranger". The younger the child, the more li
kely he or she was to be unable to give a definition of the word. It's like telling an adult to be afraid of the "splottyplodge" monster - unless we know exactly what such a monster is, how can we know what we should fear? Some facts for you to consider. In the United Kingdom, less than 10% of all crimes committed against children are perpetrated by strangers. That means that people who are known to the child, either as family, friends or acquaintances, carry out more than 90% of all sexual abuse, physical abuse, abductions and murders. Abduction of children is the greatest fear of around 80% of parents in the United Kingdom today and more than 98% have warned their children accordingly. However, it is currently estimated that while 8 children were murdered by strangers in the year 2000, over 200 died as a result of child abuse by a family member or a person who was otherwise known to them. Yes, sadly, children today have to be warned about strangers, but it seems the majority of parents stop there. Recent research showed that, in a survey of more than 500 parents of young children, most had not discussed child abuse in any form with their children. More than 55% felt that their children were never going to be at risk. 74% felt that it was too difficult a subject to discuss and discussing it had not even occurred to more than 65%. (Finkelhor, 1984) Are YOU one of those parents? It is obvious that continually warning children about the dangers of the world outside may produce timid, nervous kids who are almost literally scared of their own shadows. Yet, at the same time, there is an argument that children should be warned about the dangers to them that are statistically the most probable. Children should be encouraged to discuss anything that upsets them with their parents and there are also practical measures that you can take to ensure your child's safety in the big, bad world. One of these is to set up a code w
ord with the child. This should be a word or phrase that is known only to you (and other trusted adults) and your child. It can be anything - Mickey Mouse, pickled onions, earwig, pink pyjamas - be as creative as you like as long as it's memorable. Stress to your child that, before going anywhere with any adult but you, they should ask for the code word and not go unless it's forthcoming. Get the child to practise, maybe with Granny and Granddad. Remind your child every time you collect him/her from school until the word has been committed to memory and demanding it is second nature. Teach your children who to trust in an emergency. While it is almost instinctive to try to protect children from all strangers, there may be occasions when he/she needs help urgently and you are not around. Obviously policemen/women are high on a scale of trustworthiness, but whom else should your child trust? Perhaps mothers with young children, shop assistants, traffic wardens - make sure your child knows that, in an emergency, there are some strangers who are better approached than others. Some years ago, I stopped my car on the M5 when I saw two children (aged about 5 years old) walking hand in hand down the hard shoulder. They too had been told not to talk to strangers, probably by parents who never in a million years envisaged them running away from home after a minor family argument, cutting across a field and walking along one of Britain's busiest roads. Frighteningly, it later turned out that the children had actually crossed all six lanes of the motorway! Make sure your child knows his/her address and telephone number as early as possible and also teach them to use a telephone in a public 'phone box which is not the same as using the 'phone at home. Avoid allowing the child to wear T-shirts or other garments with his or her name on them. Anyone approaching your child can then greet him/her by name which, to a child, automatically signifie
s that this person is not a stranger. How could a stranger know their name? Teach your child the difference between good and bad secrets. A 'good secret' might be not telling a friend about a surprise birthday party, a 'bad secret' is anything that makes them feel unhappy or uncomfortable. Think for a moment about your own use of words. "We mustn't tell Daddy what we've bought him for Christmas. It's a secret." does not differ greatly from "We mustn't tell anyone about this - it's a secret." to a child. Make sure your child knows the difference. At the same time, make your child aware of what constitutes inappropriate touching (usually agreed to be touching in the areas normally covered by a bathing suit.) Most important of all, listen carefully to your child and let them know that they should not be worried about telling you anything at all, even if it involves a friend or relative. At the same time, give them 'permission' to talk to another trusted adult such as a grandparent, teacher or head teacher if they really feel that they cannot discuss something with you. Also let them know that they can refuse to do anything that feels wrong or frightens them, even if told to by an adult. With younger children especially, get them to practise shouting "NO!" as loudly as possible. It's annoying if they've just gone through the stage of saying "No!" to everything, but that just may be the word that attracts someone else's attention if your child is in ever trouble. The important thing is to keep a sense of perspective. Most people don't harm children, so you should not frighten your child unduly. And, those who do harm children are most likely to be known to the child so you should always be alert to the people who come into contact with them. (Get to know the parents of your child's friends, for example.) The NSPCC advises use of the three
W's. You should always know WHERE your children are, WHO they are with and WHAT time they are expected home. You might like to read a book called "Paranoid Parenting" written by Frank Furedi (Penguin, ISBN 0 71 399488 6, £6.99,). In this book he discusses parenting and safety issues, separating the myths from the facts and advising you how to temper your anxieties, at least some of which are probably unfounded. I can't look at these issues from the point of view of a parent, so I apologise if, having read this, you feel that I have been patronising. However, I can still see the looks of shock and horror on the faces of the parents of the children quoted above, all of whom were present to hear their children defining a stranger. How would your child respond? Why not find out this weekend? I sincerely hope you are pleasantly surprised.
As parents we all tell our children about Stranger Danger. Actually it is not just parents that warn children never talk to strangers, take sweets from them or even sit on their laps etc as they are told in schools by teachers and even the police go and chat to them about it. So why oh why does this all fly out of the window when Christmas comes around. Yes I mean with Father Christmas. Suddenly we are sending mixed messages to our children. Please dont get me wrong, I love Santa and my children believed in him and I told them the same things everyone does. Yet we tell them to take sweets and pressies from this man and not so much nowadays but I can remember going in shops with my Mum and Dad and sitting on his knee and my Children doing the same and having their picture taken. Worse still we tell them that when the whole house is asleep this man is coming into our home and leaving pressies and he doesnt even have the decency to come in through the door but down the chimney. At one stage my daughter saw a Father Christmas in the town and for some reason took a dislike to him. Come Christmas Eve she was upset and it worked out that she did not want him coming in her bedroom. That year we had to tell her it was okay we would tell him to leave the gifts downstairs. I am not being flippant about the dangers to children with santa but I think we should all think what we do say and make sure the santa they see is a good one.