Dear friends, we are living in very disturbing times. Reading the newspaper or watching the updates on television has become a trauma for most people. My heart feels heavy as lead at the horrific incidents happening on a daily basis. Kidnapping for ransom, assaults and murders continue unabated, while parents and grandparents keep praying for the safety of their loved ones.

It is not possible for us to keep you always in the safety of homes and under our personal protection all the time. In normal conditions (pre Covid-19 and post-Covid-19, Insha Allah), you spend a major part of your day at school. Some of you also go for coaching to get extra help. You also need to go out to play, jog or walk in nearby parks and it is your right to have some space away from your parents and spend time with friends. At times, mums send their children to nearby stores or to run an errand.

Instead of worrying, fretting and disallowing children from going out, the need of the hour is to teach you all safety measures which you should follow strictly. Discuss these with your parents and elder siblings and get suggestions from your teachers too. Write down each point carefully and go through them daily, until you remember each and every point clearly.

I, being a grandmother, also get perturbed whenever a grandchild goes out and keep praying in my heart for their safety.

Here I am sharing with my young friends the safety tips I often discuss with my grandchildren. Please read carefully and share with your peers. You can also add more tips which come to your mind.

Always keep your parents informed about your whereabouts

Whenever you venture out of home, whether it is for school, meeting friends or going for an errand, your parents must know where you are.

Some teenagers consider themselves grown-ups (which they are definitely not), and feel it against their ego to always ask permission from their parents, or even informing them before going out.

Friends, this is a big mistake which you will realise, if God forbid, you get yourself into trouble. If you carry a cell phone, keep your GPS on, so that your elders at home are aware of where you are.

Children are often irritated if parents call them to ask where and with whom they are. You must understand that they call only out of concern for your well-being. Your age doesn’t matter for your elders. They will always give you the maximum care and protection, and for them you will always be kids.

Never leave home if your parents have gone out

There are times when a friend calls to inform you about a sudden plan for a meet-up of your group at an eatery, at a mall, or to play a game. Always decline such an offer if your parents are not home. Do not come under pressure if peers taunt you about being a baby or mama’s boy, or having no independence.

Always think about your parents, and how worried they will be when they are back and do not find you at home. Again, if a misfortune befalls you, they would have no clue of where to look for you.

Be wary of strangers

Children are usually innocent and quickly believe a new person if he dramatises a situation. Suppose, as you are waiting for your car or van after school, a stranger comes up to you and introduces himself as your father’s colleague. He agitatedly informs you that there has been a sudden death in your family and he has been sent by your dad to bring you back home. Or he may say that one of your parents has had a serious accident and is in the hospital, so you have to go immediately with him to the hospital.

These are usually dirty tactics used by kidnappers/predators which they use to deceive children. Most children get so traumatised by the troubling news that they go with the stranger without even a second thought.

In any such situation, keep your nerves; go back into your school premises and straight to the principal’s office or to any other person of authority. Tell him/her about the whole situation and ask him to confirm the news by calling your parents.

Request them to come out and talk personally with the person who claims that he has been sent to fetch you. In most situations, you will find the stranger already disappeared, as he realises that you are not the one to be tricked easily.

Follow your gut feelings

If you feel uncomfortable in the company of a person, who is a family friend or relative, do not ignore or suppress your feelings. Sometimes our sixth sense is our better guide and we regret later that we didn’t follow it.

Some acquaintance may praise your looks or academic performance more than you deserve, others may hug you a bit too tightly or try to touch you on different pretexts. Move away from such people and maintain your distance, even if you remain in the same room, until they are gone. Then discuss your feelings with your parents without any hesitation, and tell them the reasons you felt ill at ease.

Thus, in a tactful way, you can avoid an ugly scene and also alert your parents and let them be aware of your apprehensions. Often, molesters can be people you and your parents know for years or can be your relatives.

Learn to sound an alarm

In frightening scenarios, children completely lose their nerves and are so scared they cannot even scream for help. You can create such a scene at home while playing with your siblings. You can create a game where one of you pretends to be a kidnapper and tries to abduct one of the other children. Yell aloud and run as fast as you can.

In real life, if you have to face such a dire situation, you will know how to draw the attention of older people nearby. Abductors are usually cowards and as soon as they feel they can be caught, they will run for their life.

In public places keep near company

If you like to go out alone to a park or any open space to study, read a storybook or simply enjoy nature, never select a solitary spot. Always be careful to choose a place where there are other people, preferably a family or someone you know, nearby. Acknowledge them with a greeting, making small talk or just a smile, so that they are aware of your presence.

If you find a doubtful person prowling around, move closer to the group and pretend that you are with them. In more serious situations, you can even request them for help. Your imagination may be playing games with you, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Never accept a snack or a drink from a stranger

It is a common practice of kidnappers and predators to lure children by offering them expensive chocolates, candies or a chilled drink on a hot day. Never, I repeat, never give in to temptation to accept these eateries. More often than not, the chocolates or drinks are laced with intoxicants, which immediately make children faint and lose their senses.

Decline politely and move away. If the stranger insists and blocks your way, create a commotion. People with bad intentions always hate attention and quickly disappear if they fear they could be caught.

Believe in the strength of prayers

I am sometimes amused when I see children react with exasperation when a parent or grandparents blows on their face after reciting a prayer. They fret about their spoiled hair-do, or are just irritated by these gestures, feeling that they are old-fashioned ways of the elders.

But children, please remember that Islam teaches us prayers for every occasion. Learn the simple prayers for protection and always recite them before venturing out from the safety of your homes.

My dear friends, this topic is so sensitive, I could keep on writing, But I know how intelligent you all are. Horrifying incidents are taking place on routine basis. Whenever you hear or read about any such tragic news, do not hesitate to discuss it with your parents, teachers and peers. Seek advice and give your own suggestions about what could have been done to avert the tragedy.

Never let down your guard wherever you are. May Allah keep you all safe, Ameen.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 21st, 2021

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