If you turn on the television, listen to the radio or browse the Internet and social media sites, you would definitely notice the alarming increase in kidnapping and othr crimes that threaten our family’s safety. As a parent, you not only feel for the children and parents involved, but also pray that such an instance would never happen to you and your family.
However, the prevalence of unscrupulous characters should not, by any means, hinder you from enjoying life to the fullest. Instead, parents, guardians, family members and our trusted kasambahays must be equipped with knowledge and important information for keeping our children safe. Here are a few we should remember:
1. Trust only the people you know well. It’s important to teach your kids to know who to trust. Constantly remind them that even though other people may seem friendly and nice, they should learn to be discerning, too. Encourage your kids to let you know right away if someone tries to talk to them or ask them to do something that feels strange.
2. Know your emergency numbers – and memorize them if you could. While this is a no-brainer, often we become too dependent on technology. If someone tries snatch your bag or asks you to hand over your phone to them – where your contacts list is – chances are, you wouldn’t be able to call your family members to warn them about the incident IF you don’t know their numbers. Having a list of important numbers to call is essential, but knowing at least one family member’s number by heart could be a life-saver. *Note: Talk to your help also about the popular dugo-dugo gang modus. Stress that in times of emergency; they should call you or a close family member first to verify.
3. Be involved in your kids’ activities. Get to know the other children your son or daughter spends time with. Attend school activities, events and extra curricular activities your child is involved in, if possible.
4. Have a listening ear. Ask your child how his/her day went. Pay attention to the stories they mention or talk about. For younger kids, this is the best way to learn about what happens when mom or dad is not around, be it in the classroom or in other school and extra-curricular activities. If your child brings up an incident in school that sounds disturbing, set an appointment with the teacher to discuss.
5. Keep mum. Some things are just best left private. This goes for our yayas,. Oftentimes they take the kids out for a walk or to play in the park or a common area where other yayas and kids also frequent. Remind your househelp not to divulge any detailed information like the child’s school, schedule/routine, places that the family frequents, etcetera. Even if the other yayas may be uninterested, there may be other people listening in the conversation.
6. Always hang around well-lit areas or populated areas when waiting. Sometimes it can’t be avoided that a child would have some idle time while waiting to be fetched from school. Tell him to stay at a place where the security guards could easily see him, or stay with a group of friends in a common area..
7. Limit what you share on social media. Click, Upload…. Wait! Take a moment to think before you click that share button for the whole World Wide Web to see. How much information do you need to divulge? I know you’re proud of your son’s achievements in school, but maybe you can opt to not include a picture of his section or ID number in the photo. You can also check your privacy settings. Most social networking sites provide this feature. This way, you can select what you share, and only to family and trusted friends.
8. Never ever leave kids unattended. Anything can happen in the blink of an eye. Parents and guardians need to be alert and aware at all times, especially if in a crowded area. It has become very alarmingly rampant for abductions to happen in malls, so always have an eye on your children. Nothing is ever more important than your child’s safety.
9. Teach your kids how to say their name, age, phone number and address – and who to tell it to. At an early age, you can already train your kids to know important information about them. This comes in handy when they’re lost or need help. However, it’s also important to teach them who to approach in such a situation, like a security guard in uniform, or the person manning the mall’s information booth.
10. Talk to your child about the dangers of abduction… in a non threatening way. Never hide the truth. Parents should always be open to their children especially when talking about the dangers out there. What’s important is that it is explained in a non-threatening way. Keep it factual, and empower them by teaching them what to do in case such a thing happens. Role-play if you feel it’s necessary. Empowerment and knowledge is key.
11. Always double check locked windows and doors. Be it at home or in the car, always make sure all doors and windows are locked as soon as you get in.
12. Remind your kasambahays not to entertain anyone they don’t know unless you left word about it. Even if it requires you to remind them constantly, always tell your kasambahays or whoever is left at home with the kids to never entertain people that are not expected.
13. Invest on a CCTV camera. They are your “eyes” and “ears”, especially when you have to be away from home. Remember, too, that not a few nannies have been caught on camera physically hurting their wards, so a CCTV camera will tell you what your child who is yet to speak couldn’t.
14. Be social media savvy. It’s good to be on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Be up to date on important service announcements or issues that may be of good use to you and your family. Learn from the experience of others. Stay safe and be informed.
15. Don’t go too near someone in a car asking for directions. Stay a safe distance away from anyone asking directions from inside a car, especially if it’s a heavily tinted one. Raise your voice to be heard, or if you feel uncomfortable, don’t say anything at all. You are not obliged to give directions.
16. (On another perspective) When asking for directions, there is no need to open your window all the way down. The inside of your vehicle is your safe zone. Don’t let anyone cross it.
17. Carry a handheld or pocket-sized pepper spray. Your family’s best defense is a quick and reliable one. You can purchase a pocket pepper spray at any local hardware store.
18. Pray. Because you need all the help you can get.