In our travels to other countries, my husband always notices how parents really let their kids roam freely and independently even in public places. This is a stark contrast to the normal Filipino way of hovering over our kids — always holding their hand, strapping them into their strollers (even if they’ve outgrown them) or always having a yaya hold onto the backs of their shirts as they walk (I think the innovation of the child leash came from this habit). Although it’s probably smothering, I think it’s more prevalent here because we practice defensive parenting. We always think something bad will happen to our kids — someone not looking may hit them or they’ll touch the escalator railing (the horror!) or the main reason and worst case scenario, someone may kidnap them.
I’ve been seeing lots of horrible news stories of kidnapping attempts locally and even in HK — Disneyland and Toys r Us and they have made me more paranoid about the bad elements in this world. I asked one of our good friends and security expert, Snooky Cruz, for some advice on keeping kids safe in public. Here are some of his OC tips:
- When going to malls, be aware of your surroundings. (Look for things out of place like weird unaccompanied men near play areas.)
- Avoid having your yayas dress in their white or whatever uniform that identifies them as such. It alerts the bad guys that the kid may belong to the upper crust of society and that means money. (OK, I just bought my yaya new uniforms!)
- Never leave kids unattended or even in the trust and care of the yaya in public. Their sense of security and judgement won’t be the same as yours.
- Every time you get to the mall, brief your kid on details — your cell, house phone, address — in case your kid gets lost. Better yet, leave a laminated calling card with contact information in his/her pocket. (We do this while traveling only but I should do this all the time.)
- Teach your kid which strangers are safe to approach like the mall security guard. (I like the Rockwell and Shangri-la guards best. They look most alert.)
- Tell your kid that something may be wrong when an older person asks your kid for help.
- Teach them not to accept anything from strangers.
- Make sure of the security measures of the play gym you intend to leave your kid with. Ask them protocols in case the kid wants to go to the comfort room and it is located outside the play gym facility.
- Best to decide before you go to the mall if you are going shopping for yourself or you are going there to bring your kids around. If you just intend to go shopping and not be bothered, it might best be better to leave them in the safe confines of your home. (And this is the reason why I don’t get to go shopping for myself anymore. Every time we go to the mall, I only see the toy store or a play area.)
I have actually taught my 4yo that if a stranger tries to grab her, she should scream at the top her lungs “Kidnap!”, step on his toes as hard as she can and run as fast as she can to a guard. (I’d have to consult Snooky if that’s the right thing to do.)
Snooky’s firm has been hired for security by some high-profile global people (like Bill Gates who went with his wife to Amanpulo last year) and he’s done seminars for GMA reporters and judges who go around the country. Maybe I should ask him to do a security seminar for us moms.
Keep safe everyone.