It’s no secret that I can be a bit of a paranoid parent at times. And when you add my over paranoid husband to the mix, we are a bad combination, putting Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory to shame. We are seriously a freak out away from full blown crazy, especially when it comes our kids safety. I think we are just so worried at the thought of losing them or having them taken away from us and somehow over the years, that fear has only gotten worse. It may or may not also have something to do with the fact that we watched the series The Missing which is enough never let your kids leave the house again. Then again it could just have EVERYTHING to do with the fact that we live in a sick society.
For the most part we are good at always keeping an eye on our kids when we are out. If I’m shopping alone, my kids will always be in the trolley – even if that means one of them being buried alive in groceries. When we are at restaurants with play areas we always make sure one of us is with them or that we are get a table super close so we can always keep an eye on them.
Well, last Tuesday evening we weren’t to Forries for an early family dinner and we lost Brody for what felt like half an hour. It was probably only 5 minutes, but for any of you who have ever lost a child will know that those five minutes felt like eternity.
Because the outside play area had been closed off on the one side, the adults decided to sit in the covered area outside, which meant they had to walk the long way round to the play area at the back. Every so often the adults would take turns going to check on them. Unbeknown to me, my dad (Good old Papi) has started playing a game of hide and seek with the kids. A few minutes into the game, they were called to the table for their pizza and everyone came around from the back to where we were all sitting (out of view of the play area).
In all the commotion I thought all the kids had arrived back at their table and after a few moments we realised Brody wasn’t there. This on it’s own was enough to put into into a panic. Brody hadn’t followed my call announcing their pizza was ready? My son who can smell the food coming a mile away, was nowhere to be seen?
A few of us went back around to the play area, calling for him. NO answer. We came back around to the uncovered area outside and called for him. NO answer. We went back to the play area, screamed for him. NO answer. We went inside, asked the staff and security at the exit. They had seen nothing, heard nothing. We checked the entire restaurant, the kitchen, the toilets, no answer. We went back to the outside play area and I now started to scream that scream you hear in movies “ BRODY!! BRODY!!” And still, nothing. By this stage My darling husband had jumped over the play area wall and was half way up the road getting the car guards to keep watch. He in 30 seconds managed to check the Scout hall on the other side of the road, warn the car guards and run up to the highway. (Paretns do weird things in these kind of situations. He literally did anything he could think of!)
I was inside checking the outside area, running backwards and forwards. Four of us checked that play area three times and not one of us found him. I screamed louder and louder and began to cry – my head racing thinking “this cant actually be happening! Where is my boy??”
There was a young couple sitting outside at the back who began to hear the terror in my voice and even they got up to ask if they could help. We screamed and screamed and called and called and then I heard my dad shout “I’ve got him I’ve got him!”
As it turns out my son takes Hide and Seek pretty seriously and he had managed to find the perfect hiding spot deep in the bushes at the VERY back of the garden area. I seriously walked past him three times, without even seeing a twig move. In hind sight, it’s all rater impressive, but in that moment I couldn’t help but tell him how worried he made me by bursting into tears. Any mom who has lost there child for that long would know the relief you feel when they are back in your arms.
Afterwards, I thought how much it sucks that we have to live like this. Always in fear for your children lives and safety – even in a restaurant considered safe for kids. I realise we can’t live in fear , but as parents it’s hard right? It’s hard to always just let go and let your guard down, because what if? What if something bad happens to my kid?
And then it got me thinking how important it is to have conversations with our kid about safety and how they should handle it if they ever did get lost. I mean they may not be kidnapped but they could lose you in the shops and that could be a scary thing for them to face! And teaching them to NOT talk to strangers is not really going to help matters.
Here are some tips I found from Paretns.com (Full article Here)
1. Teach Your Child to Call Your Name — Your Real Name
If your lost child is shouting, “Mommy!” it can be difficult to distinguish her voice among other children calling for their moms. According to Joselle Shea, manager of children and youth initiatives at the National Crime Prevention Council, preschoolers should learn the first and last names of their parents or any other of their caregivers. “You have to repeat this information to children over and over again to help them remember it. Then if they ever become lost, they can tell someone who their parents are.”
Gilliam suggests getting your child interested in learning your name by presenting it as something very special. “Ask your children if they know your real name, the name other grown-ups use for you. The more important and empowering the information seems to preschoolers, the quicker they’ll be willing to learn it.”
Some parents worry that encouraging children to yell for help will make them easy targets for predators. Not so, Wilson says. “Predators are looking for the kid who is not drawing attention. The kid yelling for her mom is too much trouble.”
2. Teach Your Child to Ask Another Mom for Help
If your child becomes separated from you, stays put, and calls your name but you don’t return, then the next step is to ask for help. This is another reason we can’t tell our children never to talk to strangers. Children this age should ask another mother with children for help, Wilson suggests. (Older children can learn to ask police officers or store clerks, but preschoolers can’t yet distinguish uniforms from other types of dark clothing.)
“Statistically, a mother with children is the safest bet for your kid,” Wilson says. “Women will generally commit more time to helping your child because men are afraid that if they help they’ll be targeted as a predator.” The first rule still applies, though. Teach your children to stay where they are, yell your name, and ask women nearby for help.
3. Talk About Safety in Your Daily Life
One of the biggest roadblocks to your child’s safety is your uncertainty about how to approach the subject. Wilson says it best: “We have to keep our fears in perspective and talk to our kids calmly about how to keep safe.”
Sherryll Kraizer, PhD, author of The Safe Child Book, likens the task to teaching kids how to cross the street. “We don’t say to a kid, ‘See that truck? It’s trying to run you down!’ Instead, we give kids positive, empowering rules for safe behavior, rather than pointing out all the things that could hurt them. You should do the same with personal safety.”
“Try to talk to your children in small, frequent bits, especially during teachable moments,” says Dr. Strauss. “For example, when you’re at the mall and it’s very crowded, ask your 3-year-old what she would do if the two of you got separated. Then you can suggest the simple steps for safety.” And in every conversation about safety, reassure your child, Wilson stresses. “The most important thing you should tell your child is, “If we get separated, I will find you, so stay calm and follow the safety rules.”
4. Role-Play with Your Child
Talking about safety is key, but as anyone who’s tried to explain something to a preschooler knows, you often end up in a circle of whys. But why should I call your name? So I can find you. But why should you find me? Because you’re lost. But why am I lost? Aaargh!
A better approach is to practice through role-playing. However, kids this age are easily traumatized, Gilliam warns, so acting out being lost has to be positive and empowering rather than scary. “Focus on positive things kids can do to find a parent rather than how they can stop a bad adult from taking them away,” Gilliam says.
At home or even in safe public spaces, let your children pretend to get separated from you; then work through the steps of staying put and yelling your name. Joselle Shea suggests getting a friend involved so your kids can practice asking another mother for help.
These may seem like extreme measures but as with everything in life, rather safe than sorry right?