Being forced to leave your children unsupervised in public is a nightmare scenario for any parent. As mum-of-four Jodie Norton recently found out, however, arming your children with the correct safety advice is the easiest way to keep your children safe when you’re faced with an emergency situation and have to leave them by themselves for a period of time.
Jodie was forced to leave her two oldest boys, CJ, 10, and T-Dawg, eight, on their own after she suddenly found herself in incredible pain while she was taking a shower. Jodie was suffering from a ruptured ovarian cyst, and drove herself to the nearby hospital where she was immediately admitted to the emergency room.
Jodie was forced to leave CJ and T-Dawg outside the ER door on a bench to wait for a helpful neighbour who was coming to pick them up and take them to school. Jodie had assumed that her neighbour was coming from his house, which was five minutes away. However, since he was actually coming from much further away, the boys were left on a bench outside the hospital for a full 40 minutes.
Then, as Jodie explained on her blog Time Well Spent, the boys “were approached by an adult female and two punk males who asked them if they’d ‘help them out by going into the bathroom where her boyfriend was hiding from the doctor and see if they could convince him to come out and get treated.’”
CJ, the oldest boy, began to repeat “no, thank you” at the strangers, in an attempt to get them to go away. The strangers persisted, saying: “Please? You could really save his life if you’d just go in that bathroom and tell him it’s safe to come out.”
Thankfully, the strangers eventually gave up and drove off. Then, as Jodie explained: “Shortly afterward, the neighbor showed up and my boys jumped in his car, but, not before they saw a third adult male come out from the bathroom, jump into the car with these other three hooligans and drive off. My mouth hung open the entire time they relayed this account.”
She added: “My anger and shock turned to immense gratitude, however, when I heard CJ spout off a family ‘stay safe’ rule we went over way too long ago that helped him know these creeps were up to no good. Most specifically, a tip for identifying a ‘tricky person.’”
The concept of “tricky people” is the invention of Pattie Fitzgerald, the creator of Safely Ever After, a site dedicated to life-saving safety tips for kids. This idea is to stop kids associating the word “stranger” with danger, since sometimes, asking a stranger for help is the best course of action for a young child in danger.
Instead, Safely Ever After suggests that adults talk to their kids about “tricky people”. These are adults who will go up to children to ask them for help, even if there are other adults around. Since no adult would ever seriously consider asking a child for help when there are adults around, it’s generally a clear indicator that something’s amiss.
Other tips include teaching your children that a “tricky person” doesn’t have to be a stranger, it can also be someone they know well. Parents are also encouraged to listen to their child, and pay attention if they seem to want to avoid a particular adult. Above all, children should be encouraged to share their experiences with their parents, just as CJ and T-Dawg did in their frightening example.
As Jodie summarised: “When it’s all said and done, the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ undoubtedly applies to our kids keeping themselves safe. We know we won’t always be physically present to protect our kids from everything–I’m sure you lose sleep over this like I do. But, we can empower them and give them confidence by teaching them what they can do in these kind of situations.”
Jodie has since notified police of the incident, and they are reviewing CCTV from outside the hospital in an attempt to catch the predators. In the meantime, it’s worth teaching the children in your life the rules Jodie’s kids clearly know so well.