Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Adar I 5763 - February 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Where's My Child?
by A. Ross, M.Ed

There are many easy-going, placid parents who can control a dozen children without losing their cool. If a child falls, they pick him up, or even call to him to get up, and kiss the hurt all-better. If a child wants to go out in the rain without a raincoat, they say, "Let him go. He'll soon come home when he feels wet." The same applies to a sweater you want him to wear. He'll put one on when he feels like it. If the child refuses to eat, their reply is that he will eat when he is hungry. However, there is one thing that alarms even the most unruffled parent. If a child gets lost. One minute he is there, the next minute he is not.

It is terribly easy, and very common, for a child to disappear for a few moments. Children under three cannot be prepared in advance. They need watching constantly and are best kept in a stroller while the mother is shopping. At the beach, that rather defeats the purpose of the trip. Water and sand are [therapeutic] paradise for children of all ages. However, someone has to keep an eye on the child every single minute. In the same vein, a toddler is in his element with the wide stretches of grass and the feeling of freedom in a park or public playground. Nevertheless, he must be under supervision while he is enjoying his freedom.

Four- and five-year-old children can already be taught their telephone number and home address. They can also usually tell people their name and surname even by three. This age group and older children, too, have to be taught that they may never go with strangers! However nice and kind the strangers are, children unfortunately have to learn that they may never let themselves be persuaded to go with them. As a last resort, an older child can be taught that he should ask a woman who is with a child/ren of her own, for help. Explain to them that they may turn to a policeman or policewoman for help, or to any security guard in a shop. But you will have to show them what the security guard looks like! In a small community, all children from a very young age know how to identify a Jew. In Israel, this is more problematic.

The best precaution is to tell the child, whatever age he is, to stand still. Stay in the exact place where you first knew you were lost. Practice at home with the children; you can make it into a game. Like the game `statues,' where children have to stand immobile for however long they can manage. Finally, assure the children that you will always come back for them. That applies to a large shop or shopping mall.

What about the beach? The first warning is that no child may EVER go near the water without express permission. If they want to swim, it MUST be in the company of an adult. Show them some sort of landmark where you are all sitting, and also take the precaution of showing them the lifeguard's hut. Show them what you mean by keeping eye contact all the time. After saying all this, it still only takes one second to lose your sense of direction on a crowded beach.

So what can a panic stricken mother do? It is no use telling her to keep calm. It is one of the most frightening things that can happen to a mother, or a grandmother, come to that. In a shopping mall, turn to the nearest security personnel immediately, and then go back to the place where you first noticed that the child was missing. It is better to feel a fool if you find him straight away, than to have wasted precious time.

Don't be ashamed to ask fellow shoppers for help, too. Describe the child and tell them what he is wearing. Ask for someone to call the child's name out on the Public Address system.

Finally, children have a very different perspective from ours. When a policewoman once berated a young daughter of mine for walking away from me and getting lost, she calmly replied, "I didn't get lost. SHE did." May Hashem help us look after our children and keep them safe from all harm.


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