International Missing Children’s Day 25 May 2015

Today is a day for hope and awareness, it is International Missing Children’s Day, 25 May 2015. Hope is held for those who are missing and that they can be found as soon as possible. Hope is for the families who continue to feel the horrible feeling of not knowing. Hope is for the small portion of people that abduct these children, we hope that they relinquish their ideas and release the children back to safety, and seek real help. Hope is for the children who have experienced trauma to be supported, loved and strengthened to move forward with their lives.

I cannot and will not even attempt to understand how difficult it would be for parents, siblings and extended family in these times of loss and uncertainty. The closest many of us have come is that dreaded shopping centre loss, where you and your child don’t know where each other are, even for a moment, your stomach sinks and your heart races, and your brain goes into rapid problem solving mode. Now multiply the anguish by days, weeks, months and even years. It soon becomes unimaginable, hence why I do not pretend to have any real understanding, but I do have extreme empathy for the plight.

Cases such as the Morcombes are extreme not only in the atrocity that was committed, but in the strength of their hope. And I suspect that even when their hope was lost, they seemingly redirected their hope to other ways in which this tragedy could serve and provide awareness for others. And there are many, Australian Federal Police state that ‘Children go missing all around the world every day – in Australia, two young people under the age of 18 are reported missing every hour.’

Awareness on this day is for us. Awareness of the child’s safety. Awareness of the child about their environment, about what they can say, and about what they can do. And it is with this that we can help. Talking to our children openly, makes them aware. Showing them how we think about a situation, will not scare them, it will empower them. Of course, speaking plainly in their way of understanding is important, and their age will determine a lot of that. None the less, it is never too early to begin to develop their awareness. To give them resources that will help them. The Morcombe Foundation promotes the use of safe words that let the child now whether a stranger is really a stranger. This is something we discuss with our kids at the Young Adventurers centres. However, the added challenge for us as parents is that some children are taken by the people they trust most – a family member or parent. Organisations such as Help Bring them Home are doing their best to make us more aware of this fact, amongst others.

We are discussing safety as our theme the next few weeks, and with visits from emergency services we expect the children will be very engaged and aware. Obviously though that doesn’t help those who are not enrolled in our centres. So here are couple of suggestions if I may.

  1. Approach the conversation in a relaxed manner and look for opportunities to open the conversation.
  2. Tell a story or scenario about a third party that does not involve your child.
  3. Ask them questions about what the character in the scenario should/could do.
  4. Guide them towards the answers and explain why you see it that way.
  5. Congratulate them on thinking through the scenario, this will encourage them to do it more in future.

My final point is it need not be something to get stressed by, but it definitely isn’t something to ignore or put off for a future date. A savvy child is a safer child, and we all can help in giving them more resources to stay safe. We would love to hear from you, if you need any help or advice please contact us and we can either give you our knowledge or point you towards the appropriate experts that can help.

We would also invite you to leave your comments on this post and share with your friends if you feel this is important.

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About the Author: John McAlpine

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