With all the hype about child abduction and recent attempted kidnapping cases in Singapore, I can't help but start feeling a little paranoid whenever I bring my girl out. Having been away from Singapore for nearly four years, there are things that I started taking for granted – and safety is one of them. Now that we are heading back to the tropical island in a few months’ time, I probably need to boost my safety precautions and be a more vigilant mum.
It has become habitual for us to go to town at least once every two days as we love the breath of fresh air and the warmth of sunshine. Moreover, considering how Angel is a vivacious toddler always full of life, it's only fair for her to go to the playground, run on the streets, skip in the parks and have her share of outdoor fun.
The thing is, I have gotten so used to living in Karlskrona in Sweden - a simple, sparsely populated town which I would describe as free from crime and chaos. A once misplaced my bag in an apparel store and managed to retrieve it, fully intact. A friend dropped her wristlet with S$60 and months later, the police sent her a letter to pick it up at the station without a single cent missing.
I guess I better start ensuring that I look after my girl well when we are out. Lost bag, I can deal with it - I have many more at home. Lost passport, I can make a new one. With a lost child, I'd rather get the death penalty because I won't remember what it's like to live.
So, here are some tips from my experience to parents when they are out with their children:
1) Always hold hands or at least let your child hold on to the stroller
Sounds like the obvious or sounds easy? Wait till you try it with a toddler who just mastered running and can't wait to break the reins, or a super lively child who seems to have endless energy to dissipate. I did have a problem with Angel at the beginning when she was galloping like a horse on the streets and I was running after her with a bridle. On a few occasions, my heart almost jumped out of my mouth when she headed straight for the roads. So, I've made it a point to tell her at the start of every excursion that she has to hold on to my hand, if not we'll just go home right away. So far, it has been working out pretty well and she now makes it a habit to hold hands, tightly.
2) Beware of not only crowded places, but secluded places you listed as safe
This will include libraries, cafes and so on. Obviously, crowded places like Chinatown or Orchard Road are risky because your child might be whisked off before you know it and you can never recognise the kidnapper. On the other hand, it is in more deserted places where you would most let your guard down. That is when it would be easiest for a kidnapper to strike.
3) dont't play hide and seek in public places like shopping malls or supermarkets
Has your child ever run off playfully from you, shouting "Mummy, where am I?" or "Come look for me!" If that happens, please dont't cooperate and play the role of the seeker. dont't assume that you can always find him easily, just because you saw her headed in a certain direction. Instead, emphasize to him/her on the danger of getting lost in a place like this but make a promise that you will continue the game at home. Or a friend's house that's bigger than yours.
4) Keep your child in sight at all times
I know this is silly, but how many times have we stopped on the streets to chat with a long lost friend, turned away to make purchases at the cashier, bent over to pick up belongings that we dropped, searched frantically in our bags for the phone when it rings and in the process, lose sight of our child? In the case of the attempted kidnapping, it was when the mum turned to throw rubbish which frankly speaking, I had done many times too. Just like how it takes only a matter of seconds for a thief to pick your pocket, it takes only a split moment to snatch your child, especially if it is a human trafficking syndicate or if they use vehicles.
5) Teach your child to be wary of strangers
Not surprisingly, younger kids are more susceptible to fall for tricks like "Come, Auntie give you sweets" or "Come to my house, Uncle have many games to play". It is of utmost importance to start teaching your kids from young to stay away from strangers.Recap, Repeat and Re-iterate how they should be with mummy or daddy at all times and not follow anybody they do not know, even if they give them a million bucks. Or the biggest ice-cream they've ever seen. Or the newest Ipad. There was a case in Hong Kong where a girl was seen crying and kept calling for "Mama" in the subway. She was accompanied by three others. Members of the public felt odd and demanded them for an explanation, even blocking them from the exit. At the next station, the three people ran away, leaving the girl who subsequently found her real mum.
It's scary but true, the danger is out there.
So to all parents who have cute little ones at home like me, let's make sure we keep them safe and sound.
They deserve to be protected, cared for and loved with every breath we take. This article was contributed by Summer of A Happy Mum, a blog which talks about babies, family, travelling, DIY crafts and all things happy in life.