Today, my heart is in two. I’m looking around at the world I’m raising my children in, and it breaks my heart to see all this devastation and danger around, and it makes me fear for my children and their safety.
All the terror events that have happened in this year alone, and the terrible tragedy that’s struck Barcelona this week show a global scale of just how awful the world is getting, but it’s not just global disasters that I fear for my kids safety. We read and watch documentaries of children being abducted and taken in broad daylight, and for those moments we’re totally engrossed and fear that this could happen to our children one day. And then the documentary finishes, we go about our daily lives again thinking, “How awful for that child and family, but it won’t happen to us.” And then it does, almost. Never in my life did I expect anything to happen so close to home. Literally.
I was scrolling through my Facebook yesterday, when I came across my local news stations headline about a man who was indecently exposing himself at a local children’s park near us. “Ugh, Gross. What is wrong with people?” I thought. I then saw a friend had commented on it, so I decided to read the article. Not only was this man indecently exposed, (twice,) he was also going to be charged with the attempt of taking a child under the age of 16. She was 7, and my friends daughter. Thankfully, he was unsuccessful and the little girl is safe. But the potential for what could have unfolded doesn’t even bear to think about.
I know the park well, I’ve spent a good few hours there with my two, it is a two second walk from Lily’s school. It’s right next to a nursery, a quiet road on one side and a housing estate on the other. To think that someone is so disgusting to try and take a child in broad daylight is just wrong on so many levels. But we have to think about it, because these attacks and attempts to take our children are becoming more and more common. Our children are having their childhoods robbed of them, and as a parent I fear to ever let them out of my sight.
I lose sleep running scenarios in my head of what I would/could do if this ever happened to either of my children, but I shouldn’t have to. I’m angry at those who are ruining what should be a happy and innocent time for our children and us as parents raising them. We should be able to let them enjoy swinging, sliding and running around carefree without the niggling thoughts in our heads that someone at the park could be a danger to them.
Stranger Danger has been around for as long as I can remember, we were taught not to talk to strangers, or to follow strangers who offered us sweeties or told us they knew our parents – and to most definitely NOT get into a white van or any car with them. And now? I feel as though I can’t even let my children wave hello to the old dear down the road without questioning his/her morals for wanting to say hello to them. Don’t even get me started on online grooming, that’s for another day. – But not all strangers are out to get others, how do you teach your children the difference between a ‘nice stranger’ and ‘someone who wants to harm them?’
It’s ridiculous. I don’t want to be that parent who won’t let her children walk to the corner shop or go to the park with their friends when they’re older without me, but when events like this are becoming more frequent, you start to question what is best for them. My two are both too young to be left alone right now, but it’s never too early to start thinking of how to help and protect them when it comes to the time when you’re out of sight. Of course, we’ll teach them as much as we can to ensure they are confident and mature enough to be out and about without an adult, and teach them what to do should something like this ever happen, but it’s sad we have to do it for reasons such as this.
I’m just grateful this story has a positive outcome, and I hope the bastard gets his comeuppance.
The world is a dark place. It may be the case that it always has been and as an adult I’m now unravelling just how awful it is, or it really is becoming worse. Either way, I will be teaching my children how to be the rays of sunshine we so desperately need.
So what can we do to help protect our children?
- Never let them go out alone. Make sure they have a friend or family member with them at all times. The more there are, the safer they’ll be.
- If they’re old enough for a mobile phone, get them to call or text you once they have arrived at their destination, and again when they’re leaving to come home.
- Teach your children your home address and phone number.
- Teach them how to use 999 to call the police for emergencies. – Even if they don’t have a phone but are near a shop, teach them to run and ask to borrow their phones or get them to call the police for them.
- Don’t let them out after dark. Arrange curfews for them.
- Read through this article on strangers by the National Crime Prevention Council and explain who is a ‘safe stranger’ and what to do in the event of a dangerous situation.
What would you add to the list? Do you have any protective measures in place for your kids?