Every parent wants their child’s safety and as a mother you are doing everything you can at home to keep her safe and healthy.
But is your child truly secure when she’s out and about? Read on to know how you can ensure her well being when she’s outside…
Your little tot is growing up and so are your worries. You may have heard it on TV or read in newspapers about the harmful things being done to children or those who remain missing to this day. The very thought that there are people who are capable of harming innocent children must have sent shivers down your spine. So do you sometimes wish you could wrap your tot in your arms and protect her from every little danger? Rest assured, you are not alone. It is understandable that as a parent it is diffi cult to educate the child to be alert to possible dangers and at the same time encourage her to feel safe and confi dent in exploring her world. M&B tells you how…
SAFE AND SOUND
For a child, safety means physical, mental and emotional protection from the likely hazards. It is extremely important to provide a safe environment for the child during her developing years at home as well as outside. “A kid who is four or younger is extremely vulnerable and susceptible, especially to adults who have a devious design on them. Building a protective and loving surrounding around her helps her to grow, survive, learn and develop to her fullest potential,” says Dr Sulata Shenoy, Child Psychologist and also Director at Turning Point, the centre for psychological therapies, assessment and counseling, Bengaluru. So as a parent, you need to be aware of the dangers, communicate with her and help her face the world with confi dence and self-assurance.
Stranger danger/abduction: Because children are very innocent, they are often misled and misused. First of all, it is important for you to defi ne ‘stranger’ to her. Before you make her understand who a stranger is, know that you don’t want to repress her friendly and outgoing nature nor do you want to frighten her by making her paranoid and scared by telling her horrifying details. All she needs to know is that a stranger is anyone to whom she has not been introduced by you. Tell her that she need not worry about strangers if she follows certain rules. Make it a rule for her to not to accept any kind of edible items or gifts or any such things from strangers. If such an incident occurs, make another mandatory rule of informing you about it. Teach her that under no circumstance should she go anywhere with a stranger unless you have told her that it’s okay to go with that person. You can also ask her to make a noise and get to a safe spot in case of emergency. Supervision at all times, by either you or a family member, is a good way to prevent such an unfortunate event.
Loss or separation: Getting lost in the crowd or sudden separation from the family can be quite traumatic on the child. “For her, almost everyone she meets is a stranger – the shopkeeper, vegetable vendor, doctors and nurses, bank manager, supermarket employees, etc. As long as you are there, she is safe to talk to anyone she meets. If you are not there or somehow she gets separated from you, then she will need help from a stranger. So how will a preschooler know whom to ask? Teach her to look out for people in uniform. This stranger can be a policeman or a security guard or a person in uniform at a kiosk. These are the people she can talk to if she is lost,” advises Dr Shenoy. She also suggests that holding her hands or keeping a close eye on her in crowded places are some of the measures that will ensure her safety.
Paedophilic behaviour: Paedophiles obtain their sexual gratifi cation from children. It is a known psychological perversion and is a compulsive behaviour. Because a paedophile looks and behaves no different from other adults, it is very diffi cult to identify one. “Talk to her about the ‘good touch’ and the ‘bad touch’ of the body parts (read our article on this in the same issue). Whether you use the words pee-pee or boobies or bum, be sure that she knows that the parts under the armpits and above the thighs are private parts,” says Dr Shenoy. She needs to be informed that safe touching of these parts by a doctor or a nurse when you or daddy take her to the doctor’s offi ce or when you are giving her a bath are okay. But if someone else wants to touch her private parts, then that is an ‘unsafe’ touch, no matter if the person is being nice, if the person gives her candy or a gift or even if the person threatens to hurt her or asks her to keep it a secret. Dr Shenoy further adds, “Also, tell her she should not see or touch anybody else’s private parts if the person asks her to. Whenever anyone tries to do ‘unsafe touching’ she should inform you as soon as she can after it happens so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again. And if you are not around for some reason, tell her the names of one or two other people she should tell about any ‘unsafe touching’.”
Danger from a person she knows (known predators): “Sadly, in a majority of cases, danger is from a person known to the child rather than a stranger. In such cases, because you know the person and also out of fear, the child might never reveal the name of the person or what the person did or said to her. Tell her that anything that bothers her should not have to be a secret. It is very necessary that she reports such incidents immediately to you. You must also explain her which adults are trustworthy. If you are not okay about leaving her with someone, don’t do it. You should leave her in the company of trusted adults only. A nanny-cam will help keep an eye on her caretaker when you both are at work. Always remember you should be be aware of the day-to-day activities of your child,” states Dr Shenoy.
Bullying: Bullying is an aggressive behaviour that is intentional and repetitive by one or more children against another. It can be physical like hitting or kicking or verbal like teasing or taunting. Bullying can have serious psychological consequences. It can make her anxious, fearful and, further more, she can lose her self-confi dence. According to Dr Shenoy, you must know about what is happening to her at play and at school where bullying most frequently occurs. Communication between you and her is the main key in preventing bullying. Make her understand who a bully is and how wrong bullying is. You should talk to her and ask her to report such incidents to a responsible adult around. “Ask her not to show anger or tears. Either calmly tell the bully to stop bullying or simply walk away. Avoiding bullies is the best recourse, if it is possible. Asking her to hit the bully back or ‘give it to him like he got it’ mostly results in the bully getting more aggressive. In severe cases, adults do need to step in if they feel the interaction is extreme rather than letting her handle things on her own,” informs Dr Shenoy. It is important
for kids to know that bullying is wrong and should be handled by an adult.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND OTHER FACTORS
Parks and playgrounds: When you take her for outdoor playtime, know that even parks and playgrounds can be hazardous to her health. Here’s how…
* Mosquito bites: Mosquitoes are most prevalent in playgrounds and she can easily get bitten by one or many while she’s playing with her friends. Yes, we know you may say mosquito bites are common, but be aware that the hazards of mosquito bites – dengue and malaria – can be dangerous and life threatening. Paediatrician Dr Amita Phadnis, Director of Oyster & Pearl Hospitals, Pune, says, “You should make every effort to avoid mosquito bites. Make her wear long sleeves, long pants, socks and shoes so that her hands and legs are covered in clothing. When you take her to a park, apply mosquito repellent cream on her skin and carry it in your bag at all times. These measures will help minimise the risks of mosquito bites.”
* Ant bites: Ants are ubiquitous in parks… in the mud or on the grass. Children often get bitten by ants when they sit on the grass to rest or to have a snack after playing. Ant bites usually begin to disappear by the next day and do not require a doctor’s treatment. However, Dr Phadnis says that these bites can be painful and can cause reactions, swelling and itching. To relieve the itchiness that accompanies bites, apply a calamine lotion on that part of your child’s body. Do carry a soothing calamine lotion in your bag.
* Allergies to grass or pollen dust: Some tots are allergic to ordinary things in the environment like grass or pollen dust. If the allergic reaction is mild or moderate it can trigger skin rashes and swelling after touching grass. In case of severe reaction, if she is allergic to pollen dust, she can have an asthmatic attack, a severe attack of sneezing, diffi culty in breathing, noisy breathing and cough. “She should wear long sleeves and long trousers when sitting or playing in the grass. Give her a bath after playing outside, especially if she feels itchy. If you know that she has an allergic tendency, ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-allergic syrup and always carry it with you. Parents of tots with known asthma should always carry a prescribed inhaler with them. Seek the doctor’s help in case of emergency,” advises Dr Phadnis.
* Bee stings: Bee stings can cause severe reaction like itching and swelling among kids. Ask her to avoid scratching the site of the sting. Check with a doctor if she’s
allergic to bee stings. Multiple bee stings are more dangerous in children. If you are taking her outside, avoid dressing her up in bright coloured clothing or floral prints. Also, try and avoid fragrances or cosmetics with floral scents. Be on the look out for bees and remind her also to be watchful. Advise her to stay away from areas that have bees. An anti-histamine syrup and a soothing calamine lotion will be helpful in case of accidental bites.
* Playground equipment: The playground and park equipment like climbers, slides, swings, merry-go-rounds should be checked for safety. It can be rusted or broken which might cause serious injury to her. Dr Phadnis advises to check for any kind of sharp metallic piece sticking out of the equipments, pieces of glass or mirror or stones or needles on the ground that can cause a cut and lead to bleeding. Make her wear socks and shoes to prevent such incidents. Always accompany her and check the equipment before she climbs on it.
* Crowd of children: “A large number of children vying for the same slide or swing can lead to pushing and this may result in falls and injuries. If there is too much jostling at, say a slide, take her to another area and come back when the slide is less crowded. You must also supervise the play,” states Dr Phadnis.
* Unhygienic food: Poor hygiene conditions often contaminate food and water available on the roadside ie outside parks. She must avoid these food items as well as water because it can lead to severe gastroenteritis or typhoid. You can carry home food or packaged food and water for your little munchkin!
Dr Phadnis concludes, “It’s important to be careful but remember that being hyper about her safety may kill the joy of childhood play and fun. Be an alert and watchful parent. Try and be reasonably safe, but don’t go to extreme lengths. Remember, you cannot prevent every mosquito bite, rash or scratch or fall. If some kind of harm comes to the child, despite every precaution that you take, do not feel guilty or curse others. You can deal with it in an effective way.” M&B
Note: If there is any injury or fall on the playground, take her to her pediatrician and remember to give an injection for tetanus.
MALLS AND RESTAURANTS: You must be very attentive when you take her to crowded places like malls and restaurants. Supervised play is recommended in the play zones of the malls that are meant for kids. Dr Phadnis suggests, “If the fear of her getting lost is gripping you, it can be prevented by reminding her to not to let go of your hand, especially when it’s crowded. Show her a place or spot where she can go and wait in case she gets lost. You can also keep an ID tag on her that has your name and contact number. If your are shopping and if she has a tendency to wander, a child leash can be used to prevent the child from going far away.” If you take her to a restaurant, watch what she reaches for. Restaurants might place hot pots of coffee or boiling water directly on the table. The same goes for hot plates as well as the table cloth. Kids often reach for these or knock them over or touch them with their fingertips and end up hurting themselves. She might even grab your cup of coffee, take a gulp, sending hot liquid down her throat. When she is bored, she might decide to run around and play. Hence, you need to be an attentive parent.
POLLUTION: According to Dr Phadnis, in today’s world complete prevention from exposure to polluted air, food and water is almost impossible. However, she says, “This may be expensive and not always possible, but you can try switching to organically grown grains, vegetables and fruits from a known sources of production. Her drinking water should be purifi ed with appropriate filters and boiled whenever needed. Bathing with water from a bore well can be harsh on her skin but applying a moisturiser after her bath may help. Avoid taking her to high traffi c zones to prevent hazards of air pollution.”
Words Sahana Bhandari
Illustrations Ajay Paradkar