Friday, 6 September 2013

Somewhat of a serious post . . .

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It's been so fun this past few days seeing all the kiddies going back to school with their new shoes and bookbags, pristine school uniforms, freshly scrubbed faces and enthusiasm.  I very much remember what an exciting and nervous time it was . . . new year, new class, new teacher, new friends.  Most children are accompanied by their mums or dads nowadays, which makes for traffic chaos over here during school letting in and letting out times.  I don't remember my mom ever accompanying me.  It was a different time back then . . . I think we were a lot safer.

I was pondering that fact yesterday.  I don't ever recall about any school child during my childhood years being abducted, or disappearing.  If it did happen, I think it must have been very rare.  It was a safer day and age I think.   We played where we wanted to (within reason and with rules).   We knew all our neighbors, and they all knew us.   There was no such a thing as terrorists, or school shootings . . . child grooming, etc.  I am grateful for that.

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I watched a video yesterday which was taken from one of the newsmagazine morning shows over here.  It was quite fascinating and also quite frightening.   They had done a controlled experiment with a group of  nine children and parents and a "stranger."  In this experiment the "stranger" approached the child, whilst the parent was pre-occupied with a phone call or something else, and asked the child to go with them to help them find their own child, a missing dog, etc.  Seven out of the nine children went with the stranger, despite having been taught by their parents that they shouldn't go with a stranger.

Seven out of nine.  It was really quite astonishing.  Add to that the little piece I saw on the local news last night about a two year old leaving her nursery school and walking the half mile to her home, alone.  The first her parents knew about it was when she knocked on the door to her home and said, "Mummy, I'm home."  You think your children are safe at school . . . but clearly they are not as safe as we think they are.

I thought I would share these five top tips on teaching your children about stranger danger with you this morning.   If you don't have children of your own, you may be able to share them with a friend.


 
WHO’S WHO?
A stranger is anyone that your child doesn’t know or doesn’t know very well. It’s both common and dangerous for your child to think that ‘strangers’ look scary or sinister, like villains in films or cartoons. In a recent survey the majority of children aged between 5-8 thought this. Play a game with your child and ask them to draw a stranger, it will help you reinforce that a stranger can look like anyone. Tell your child that they won’t be able to tell if a stranger is nice or not, so all strangers should be treated in the same way.



DON’T GO - SAY NO!
If your child is approached by a stranger, encourage them to raise the alarm by saying ‘NO’ ’to draw attention. They should not be scared to do this and be told that it is the right thing to do. For children aged between 3-4, be careful not to scare them too much but start with “there are bad people so it’s very important you never…” All children should ask for help from other adults. Teach them to look out for people in uniforms such as police officers, or teachers and traffic wardens if they’re at the school gates. Teach your child this basic slogan, ‘DON’T GO, SAY NO’



PLAN AHEAD
As obvious as it seems, please stress to your child that they should NEVER talk to a stranger, NEVER accept gifts or sweets, and NEVER walk off or get into a car with one. This is important if your child is between 5-8 as they are at their most vulnerable. This situation might arise if you are late collecting them from school for example, so agree a plan with your child that they know you will stick to if you are late. For example, teach them that you would only ever send a teacher from their school or a friend’s parent, that they recognise to collect them if you aren’t able to. Give your child your home, work and mobile numbers so they can reach you at all times, especially if they’re aged around 9 - 11, as they will be spending more time on their own.



TIME TO TEACH
Tell your child that even if they are not sure if someone is a stranger they should always behave in the same way and not take risks. Teach them stock phrases to help give them confidence. For example: a child offered money or sweets should respond, 'No thank you. Please leave me alone’ It's important children don't think that talking to a stranger is ok if they're with a friend. Teach themthey should only talk to someone they don't know if you are there by their side.



PRACTICE MAKES
One way you can prepare your child is by practice scenarios. Try playing a game called, 'What if?’ Discussing and thinking about what to do is often more helpful than having the 'right' answers. Ask them what to do if a stranger approaches them to help reinforce the advice ‘DON’T GO, SAY NO’ By practising these strategies in a fun way, your child will be as equipped as possible should difficult situations arise. It's important to have this conversation regularly, especially with young children so make time every 3 - 4 months. Remember ‘DON’T GO, SAY NO’

I think it's also important to remember that children of any age are vulnerable.  One of the children in this experiment was eleven years old.  You would think that an eleven year old would be safer than say a five or a six year old, but that was not the case.   They still fell for the con of the stranger and went willingly with them, and in all cases . . .  the child's own parent was not more than fifty yards or so away.

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I am really grateful to ITV for presenting such an informative presentation on these very real dangers.  One thing that was very clear from this was that children don't really know what a stranger is.   They tend to think that strangers are only people that are "old" or "scary looking."  We need to teach our children that a stranger is anyone we do not know . . . young or old, friendly looking or scary looking, nice or mean . . . etc.  I think children also need to know that  they should NEVER go with anyone other than a parent unless it has been arranged ahead of time.

This is information I plan on sharing with my own children, who are all grown now . . . but I want my grandchildren to be safe.   And knowledge is power.

So not much of a fun post here today, but I really wanted to share this with you all because I think it's very important.   We don't want our children to grow up in a frightening atmosphere, but at the same time we want our children to be safe.

I have a lot on today as I am getting ready for Todd's little Birthday Celebration tonight so I shall leave you now with a hopefully uplifting thought for the day . . .

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"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze. " 

~John Updike, September  

   

Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.


Have a great Friday!!

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