Family Magazine

A Leash is Probably Not a Bad Idea

By A Happy Mum @A_Happy_Mum
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 Angel out. After all, if I am a kidnapper, I would probably rank her as "Cute. Happy. Smart. Perfect. Can sell for high price. Must catch." Fine, I'm a biased kidnapper.
A leash is probably not a bad idea
It has become habitual for us to go to town at least once every two days because it can get rather cooped up in the house and we always welcome a breath of fresh air, the warmth of sunshine, the companionship of swans, ducks and seagulls. 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 Karlskrona - a simple, sparsely populated town which I would describe as free from crime and chaos. Remember how I misplaced my bag in an apparel store and managed to retrieve it, fully intact? Another of my friend dropped her wristlet with S$60 and months later, the police sent her a letter to pick it up at the station and not a cent was missing.
It's not hard to take things for granted till one day reality slaps you in the face.
I guess I better start ensuring that I look after my girl well when we are out. Lost bag, I can deal with it. Lost passport, I can do a new one. Lost bag, I have many more at home. BUT lost child, you might as well kill me on the spot.
So, here are some tips that I have for parents when they are out. I recall a useful brainstorming tactic I learnt: To come up with a good idea, first come up with bad ones and then reverse them. I came up with this list by going through situations which might be fairly safe in a town like Karlskrona but not so once I get back to the bustling, crowded sunny island.

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. Something that I love and can't get enough of, feeling her small hand inside mine.
A leash is probably not a bad idea
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 recognize 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) Don't play hide and seek in public places like shopping malls or supermarkets
Don't tell me your child has never run off playfully from you, shouting "Mummy, where am I?" or "Come look for me!" If that happens, please don't be so cooperative and play the role of the seeker. Don't assume that you can always find him easily. Don't be so sure to think that she must be behind that pillar or in that store because you saw her headed there. 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.
A leash is probably not a bad idea4) 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 and in the process, lose sight of our child? In the case of the attempted kidnapping, it was when the mom turned to throw rubbish which frankly speaking, I had done many times too. Clean and green Singaporeans, right. 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 mommy 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 mom.
A leash is probably not a bad ideaIt'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.
Because they deserved to be protected, to be cared for, to be loved with every breath we take.

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