• Anxiety is Contagious in a Shitty Environment without a Village: Safety-focused parenting and communities

    anxiety contagious shitty environment village safety-focused parenting communities

    Unless you live under a rock, you should know that we are confronted with daily news headlines of horrific acts against children in South Africa. Alarming statistics shows that children are often the victims of horrendous crimes. The latest making headlines are a spate of child abductions and attempted abductions. With at least 13 confirmed cases reported so far.

    The thing is we don’t want to be paranoid parents and let’s be realistic, we can’t protect our children and keep a watchful eye over them 24/7. These kinds of headlines make us worry. It makes us anxious and anxiety is contagious when our children are in danger. We suspect anyone who just glances at our children.

    Last week a video on Facebook went viral and showed how perpetrators tried to kidnap a girl walking from school. This child was so brave and luckily managed to escape the clutches of her alleged kidnappers. But things could have been so different. What if the perpetrators abducted this child? We all know the reality of what happens if a child goes missing.

    This and other videos have surfaced and everyone was on high alert. Sending parents into a frenzy. With schools putting safety measures in place and becoming alarmist by sending out newsletters reminding parents and learners to be vigilant.

    But last Thursday, 6 September on Jane Dutton’s show on ENCA, a guest speaker, Marcel van der Watt from UNISA’s Department of Police Practices touched on something profound. He said are these incidences based on FACT, FICTION or FABRICATION.  Then on Friday, 7 September, SAPS (South African Police Service) confirmed that there was no evidence to support the child abduction videos and that it appears to be hoaxes.  None of these incidences showed on video were reported to SAPS.  Also there was no conclusive evidence that these incidences actually occurred in South Africa. Allegedly it could be re-enactments of attempted kidnappings and therefore regarded as fake news.

    So with SAPS coming out and making this statement; how certain are we that this is in actual fact the case? Do we just accept this and let our guard down and become complacent? Surely the 13 confirmed cases is still worrisome with the modus operadi being the same. All being 13, being female learners travel to and from school. Out of the 13 cases, 3 were sexually assaulted.

    Knowing the latest crime stats, how is it even possible to let our guard down.

    And don’t think for a minute that this will never happen to your child because you live in an affluent suburb or neighbourhood. Ignorance is bliss if you still have the perception that these incidences only happen in poverty stricken neighbourhoods where unemployment is rife.  Negative forces can also enter affluent suburbs and place you and your family at risk of harm.

    And yes the majority of crimes are committed in socio-economic stricken areas. If only there were enough jobs available then people would not commit crimes.  Like the saying goes “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.  Often people known to the family or child commit these crimes.

    A year ago I wrote a blog post about how children growing up today will never be truly street smart. I expressed how our children will never be able to experience the freedom we had as children. Let’s not shy away from the fact that child abuse happened in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s even way before then. But it wasn’t common and the world was a much safer place back then.

    Why was it safer back then?

    I will tell you why, because back then it took a “village to raise a child”.  Back then neighbours knew each other and not just by greeting. People had actual conversations over their fences. Children in the neighborhood all played together.  Our neighbours would look out for us and notice if there were strange activity happening that was out of the norm. It was not about being busybody but about showing an interest and taking responsibility for your own and other people’s children.

    Today, we no longer have “villages”. We no longer have communities who look out for each other’s children. Now our fences are too high, we don’t even see our neighbours and if we see them we don’t greet. If we see something out of the ordinary in our neighborhood; we turn a blind eye.

    Do we continue to blame SAPS and government for not doing enough to keep our children safe?  The question is – What are we doing about this situation? How can we change this shitty environment without “villages” so that our children don’t have lost childhoods but happy and safe ones?

    I’m no expert on this but I am a parent who is very concerned about the current state of affairs when it comes to our children.  We need “villages” that are safety-focused and whom we can trust.  It is up to us as adults to change this shitty environment that our children are growing up in.

    Safety-focused communities

    Apart from the minority criminal elements in some communities, I do believe that there are still many good and trustworthy people living amongst us. So this is what a safety-focused community can do.

    Know your neighbours

    It is important that you get to know your neighbours. Know what they look like, whether they are elderly or have small children and teenagers who attend school. Do they work from home or away from home. Get to know their routine, when they leave home in the morning and when they return. Know their contact numbers if you observe something suspicious.

    If you suspect a neighbour to be involved in criminal activity then alert your local police department. It is unfortunate that the National Register for Sexual Offenders is currently not available to the general public.

    An active neighbourhood watch

    Have an active neighbourhood watch who works closely with SAPS and security armed response teams. A neighbourhood watch who patrol the neighbourhood during the day and at night and can assist with recognising criminal activity in the area. They will help identify bullying, truancy and unknown characters lurking in the area. Members of the neighbourhood watch can also monitor play parks by ensuring that children are safe and that no drug dealings are taking place. Let them keep a watchful eye on empty or abandoned houses in the area. Usually these houses are an easy escape for criminal activity.

    Walking bus project

    The walking bus project is a group of volunteers who are screened and trained to ensure that children are safely walked to school in the morning and walked home in the afternoon. So far this project is working well in 74 areas in the Western Cape.

    Community involvement in child neglect and abuse

    Should community members be suspicious that a child is neglected or abused; they should take note of possible warning signs. These could be anybody from neighbours to teachers who can look out for these signs.

    Signs of abuse to look out for:

    It include unexplained fractures, bruises or burn marks on children, children acting out or becoming withdrawn, nervousness, constantly crying, bullying, absenteeism, poor academic performance and knowledge of sexual acts.

    Signs of neglect to look out for include the following:

    Constantly left alone at home without adult supervision, playing alone outside until late at night. Malnutrition in children, poor hygiene and dirty clothing.

    Teachers and community members need to monitor the situation and talk to the child and parents about their concerns. Offer assistance and support when it comes to neglect. If all measures fail, then call in professional assistance. Once physical and sexual abuse has been confirmed, report it to the authorities immediately.

    Community skills building initiatives

    If unemployment is high in the community then try to get NGO’s to offer skills training in your area. Start a vegetable garden or a recycling initiative. Take pride in your neighbourhood by keeping it clean, get volunteers to keep the streets clean. Ensure that equipment in the parks are not broken, wash off graffiti from the walls.  Approach local schools in the area to offer night school for those who don’t have a matric.

    After school and holiday programmes

    Churches and mosques should be safe havens for children to go to after school and during holidays.  Religious institutions have a big role to play to keep children off the streets and cannot just open their doors on a Friday and Sunday for religious services. These institutions should be actively involved by running after school programmes like homework, reading clubs as well as arts and crafts and other activities. There are many retired teachers and other volunteers within the communities who can assist.

    Safety-focused parenting

    Parents have a vital role to play to ensure the safety of their children. In my post about raising born free street smart children, I highlighted a few things that parents can do. But I want to touch on a few extras.

    Rethink Stranger Danger

    Teaching your children that all strangers are dangerous is detrimental to their own safety and will instil fear. In most cases those who harm children are well known to them. If your child is in trouble they should think critically, trust their instincts and approach a teacher, police officer, security guard or shop assistant.  Dangerous strangers also don’t fit a certain description. They are not all scary looking and mean, in fact if a stranger wants to harm your child he/she will be nice to win over their trust. Teach your children to be wary of potential dangerous situations.  Situations like, if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable, touches them inappropriately, asks them to keep a secret and invite them without the permission of a parent.

    Children should not be eager to help strangers. Teach your child that adults will not ask children to help them; they will ask other adults to assist.  They should not approach vehicles when called by an adult who offers them sweet treats and gifts. If these adults are persistent, then your child should kick up a racket; scream to attract attention and run away.

    Safe scholar transport

    The scholar transport conditions in our country is shocking. On selecting scholar transport, check all safety standards. The driver should have a valid driver’s licence. Legally authorised to transport school children. The vehicle should be roadworthy and have enough seatbelts for all passengers.   Parents are often under the impression that their children are safely transported to and from school.  Listen to your child when he/she informs you that the driver is driving recklessly or if the vehicle is overloaded. Enquire if the driver drops and collects the children at school or a few metres away from school. If you are not happy with the service, then change to a safer and reliable mode of transport.

    Know where your children are

    Children no longer have the freedom to roam the streets. Make it a rule that your children should ask for permission first before going somewhere. Know your child’s friends and their parents as well as their contact numbers. If you have teenagers who go out with friends over weekends, make sure one of the parents will drop and collect them. Set boundaries and give them curfews. If your teenagers have cellphones, check up on them occasionally to make sure they are where they said they would be. Explain to them that it is not about being controlling but that you are looking out for their safety.

    Have a safety code

    Come up with a safety code for your family.  The code should be short and easy to remember. Make sure that everyone in the family knows the code and not to share it with anyone. Stress that it is for emergencies only. Should your child be in trouble, he/she can alert you by using this code. Also teach your child to ask for the safety code if someone approaches them and offers them a lift. If shared outside of the family; then change the code immediately.

    Online safety

    Be aware of what your children are searching for on the internet. If they have social media accounts, monitor what they post, who they follow and who their followers are. Also make sure that privacy settings are in place.  As adults be aware what you share on your own social media accounts. I have a strict rule about not sharing any facial recognition photographs of my children on my open social media platforms. Identification information about them are not shared. People wanting to share photographs of my children on their social media platforms should ask my permission first before doing so. They are not to be tagged in any photographs without me knowing about it.  I however do have private social accounts where only close friends and family can see photos of them.

    For more safety measures, visit my blog post on raising born free street smart children.

    At the end of the day we want our children to enjoy their childhood, be free to play and not to worry about every single person who can potentially hurt them. Let’s slowly get our “villages” back in place and create safe environments for our children to thrive in.



    1. September 16, 2018 / 3:43 pm

      It breaks my heart to think of these kiddies being abducted real or not and the effect it has on the community both adults and children. Our babies should not have to worry about these things. We need the villages to return, we need to find our way back to being communities that help each other. I love this blog, you took me from saddened and disheartened to educated and hopeful. #BlogCrush

    2. September 17, 2018 / 12:45 am

      Really thought provoking post. As you say we can’t hide our children from the world but we can’t really leave them free to roam. I love the idea of the walking bus that solves one problem but as you mention this is a community problem and now there are fewer tight knit communities it becomes tricky issue to solve when all we all want to do is keep our children safe #blogcrush

    3. September 18, 2018 / 6:04 am

      We really aren’t much of a community. We do need to start looking out for each other and our children. #GlobalBlogging

    4. September 18, 2018 / 9:26 am

      It’s so hard giving our kids freedom when we know what goes on in our communities. You’ve got some great tips though! #triumphanttales

    5. September 18, 2018 / 10:21 am

      I do think basic common sense goes a long way … yes alert kids to stranger danger, and teach them to practise discernment, but equally we have to help them to take responsibility … by checking in with us, letting us know where they are and all that. But plenty to ponder there. #DreamTeam

    6. September 18, 2018 / 7:55 pm

      Such an important topic. My little boy came home from school yesterday and was telling me all about a ‘stranger danger’ talk they had received from the NSPCC. I asked him questions about what he had learnt and it was so good to hear him giving me the right answers – at 5 it’s important he understands. Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales – see you next week, I hope!

    7. September 19, 2018 / 10:39 am

      Such scary times but very sensible advise for kids in any country. #DremTeam

    8. September 20, 2018 / 11:08 pm

      I would also add know your school community. Not just through playdates, but if there’s a party or activity, fill up your car with kids – not all parents need to go. Take turns in shuttling kids to sport or whatever. Be a person that other people’s kids can come to.

    9. September 21, 2018 / 7:29 am

      Huh. Not sure why it deleted what I wrote and just posted United States… which I never even typed! Anywhoo. I was saying how sad it is that society has to form together like this to protect children from predators, most likely people that are known to them. #BlogCrush

    10. September 22, 2018 / 2:16 am

      You bring me back to my childhood with this post. You are so right when you say we need ‘villages’. I hope to find/ help create this when we move, but as you say it is not so much the thing nowadays. It doe exist n certain pockets, I find. It is sad it doesn’t more.

      • Noleen Miller
        September 25, 2018 / 10:52 am

        I think people are too consumed with their own lives to care about others. We need to start looking out for each other more.

    11. September 22, 2018 / 5:39 pm

      It is so very sad that we live in these times. And it completely breaks my heart to hear of the missing children, to think that someone could do that. The type of viral reports, as you have mentioned, do send parents into a panic, for good reason. And I absolutely agree that focusing on prevention and how to deal with a situation is very important for our little people. Thank you for sharing this with the #dreamteam xx

      • Noleen Miller
        September 25, 2018 / 10:51 am

        It saddens me when innocent children are harmed. And when things like this happen, all I can think about is my own children and how I can protect them. Thank you for reading my post #dreamteam

    12. September 23, 2018 / 8:11 am

      I’m coming back through with #GlobalBlogging

    13. September 24, 2018 / 10:46 am

      You shared some really valuable tips on how to keep our community safe for our children. #BlogCrush

      • Noleen Miller
        September 25, 2018 / 10:50 am

        Thank you #blogcrush

    14. September 24, 2018 / 1:45 pm

      Goodness I think I held my breath for the first past of this post. It’s such a fine line between wrapping the children in cotton wool and allowing them to experience life to the ‘full’ whatever that is.

      • Noleen Miller
        September 25, 2018 / 10:50 am

        I would love my children to experience the childhood I had – carefree and so much freedom. Unfortunately that is the world is today and we need to teach them about safety as there are so many sickos lurking around.

    15. September 24, 2018 / 10:00 pm

      It’s so frightening. I recently went on a child safe-guarding course as part of my training to work in school, and it was so harrowing to listen to the awful things that are happening to children. But, as you say, we just need to do what we can and train our kids to be savvy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on how to do this #blogcrush

      • Noleen Miller
        September 25, 2018 / 10:48 am

        Children are such innocent beings – why do they harm them #blogcrush

      • Noleen Miller
        September 25, 2018 / 10:47 am

        Thank you #twinklytuesday

    16. September 24, 2018 / 11:17 pm

      No idea why it wrote this. I couldn’t find a box to comment. Anyway. I’m one of those head under a rock types. I didn’t know about this and I do tend to avoid the news a it does stress me out and worry me. It’s one of my biggest fears. There are some dreadful people in this world and I feel for the parents of children who have been abducted.

      Your post has some really detailed and useful info and I think your description of why things were different when we were younger is perfect. I’ve never thought of it that way but you are completely right.


      • Noleen Miller
        September 25, 2018 / 10:47 am

        I also don’t watch the news often as it is just bad news most of the time. It is sad that we need to live in fear for our own lives and that of our children #blogcrush

    17. September 26, 2018 / 10:13 am

      The culture has changed a lot in the UK: I used to play outdoors unsupervised every day after school but there is no way I would allow my children to do the same! We have Neighbourhood Watch schemes and my dad is a coordinator. Thanks for linking up with #stayclassymama

    18. September 26, 2018 / 11:22 am

      This is so scary and is something that really worries me as my kids get more independent. I agree though a strong community is definitely key for a safer neighborhood environment. Thank you for sharing with #stayclassymama

    19. September 26, 2018 / 9:27 pm

      This is so important, and our world is so very scary. I am near speechless. #globalblogging xo

    20. lynne callaghan
      September 29, 2018 / 1:09 am

      I have to admit it is not just strangers that I have educated our girls about as there are so many instances in the UK of children being abducted by family members or friends of the family

    21. lynne callaghan
      September 29, 2018 / 1:10 am

      Your so right about the lack of communities nowadays #blogcrush

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