Distressed child in public(31 Posts)
Ok, so this is more a "what would you do" but I was in a situation yesterday where I was genuinely unsure of what to do for the best.
I was walking through a covered shopping arcade on my way back to the office at lunchtime with a colleague.
There was a child of 3-4 standing in the middle of the arcade crying. I heard the voice of an adult sounding like they were talking to the child and without looking up, I assumed that it was the child's mother just soothing him and trying to get hm to walk along.
I then realised they I could see nobody close to the child, and I couldn't immediately see anyone within 10-15 meters who could be a parent and so I began to wonder of the child was in fact lost. He was crying quite a bit, and nobody else walking by seemed concerned. I didn't hear the voice again and so it could easily have been at that stage that I heard an entirely different parent talking to her child.
NOW. I am not a parent and I am not naturally the most relaxed around young children I don't really know (as an aside, I joined this site to learn more so I could be supportive to my brother and sister in law when they started their family).
On the one hand, I couldn't walk by. If he was lost, he would be vulnerable and I couldn't live with myself if something happened.
On the other hand, I didn't want to approach a child crying in the street whose mother as in all likelihood just out of sight. I thought it may distress the child more, and upset the mother who for all I knew was standing a safe distance away to try and get the child to walk to her (and of course, it is not my place to say whether that was right or not, it really isn't).
My colleague wasn't bothered.
What I actually did was send my colleague back to the office as I pretended I needed to make a phone call, and then stood pretending to look at my phone a distance from the boy to keep an eye on him.
I saw a woman come up to him, talk to him warmly, with the same voice I had heard before and he took her hand easily and so I am satisfied he is safe and with the right person.
BUT I did feel really awkward at the time and I really felt that I would not have been comfortable approaching the child myself because I was worried that this would have been seen as sinister by any parent waiting in the wings.
How would you have reacted if a stranger to you had approached your child in those circumstances? When would it be ok?
If I saw a crying child, especially one that young and couldn't see anybody near by that was obviously their parent then I would approach them, crouch down to get to their eye level and ask if they were ok.
After that it could go one of 3 ways: a parent that I hadn't noticed would let me know they were ok, but would thank me for taking the trouble to stop; a parent that I hadn't noticed would tell me to fuck off for interfering; the child would tell me that they were lost and I'd wonder how on earth I was going to find their parent.
Either way, I'd still feel that I'd done the right thing. I've often seen crying children walking along, but clearly trailing behind their adult because they're having a bit of a strop. In that case I ignore them. But I wouldn't ignore a child if I couldn't see their parent or carer.
This happened last year with a little girl so I alerted the shopping arcades security who are always about and in full view luckily. Otherwise I'd call 111 and follow their advice. I think it's safe to stand a short distance from the child and speak to them but obviously not to start walking around with them looking for their guardian
I would be totally fine with it and would approach the child. But I'm a 30-ish woman normally with a 1 and 2 year old in tow so I'm not too worried about being accused of child abduction and, if so, so what? It is not child abduction to speak to a small unaccompanied child to check on their welfare.
I was driving home this week and could see what looked like a 6 year old standing and howling at the edge of the busy road. I pulled over and and waited a few minutes but no sign of any carer so got out the car and asked if he was ok. He said he and his brother had to walk home themselves that day as their mum was at work and his brother had gone off and left him. I told him to wait where he was but stand back from the road and walked a bit up the road to find the brother who was sheepishly waiting round the corner but came back to collect him.
If I couldn't find the brother I would have called someone the boy gave me details for if he could it, ultimately, the police. I wouldn't ever take a child anywhere unless they were clearly in a dangerous place. My DH has found a lost toddler in a shopping centre and, after waiting a bit, asked another chap if he could go to the customer information bit so said toddler wasn't removed but a member of staff could come and deal with things
I can't think of anything worse than losing a DC so I would be very grateful to anyone who helped them in good faith
Just reread my post and think it sounds to critical of you, OP. I'd approach the child, but if you felt uncomfortable then you did the right thing to stay and just keep an eye on the child - better than just going back to the office like your colleague. Hopefully, you would have got up the courage to approach the child if the woman hadn't gone up to him after a fairly short amount of time.
If I see a 'lost' child I normally do the same as you, watch and wait for someone they know to show themselves. I have on ocassion when shopping with my partner sent him for a staff member whilst I kept watch on the child.
If I see someone very upset I would go over and ask them if their Mummy or someone else was around. Normally someone quickly shuffles over.
My son can run off in shops very quickly and went around a corner once but I was following. A woman saw him and asked him where's mummy and I was grateful even though I was a couple of feet away. It's good for people to look out for children.
I think what you did was fine and I would do the same - linger a little while until I knew for sure he was with an adult. If I had become increasingly worried I would have approached the child and asked if ok and if he was lost.
I agree with cariadlet but will add, if they are lost and I can't see their parent I would take them to the nearest security guard/police offer/shop assistant.
As a parent I am always grateful when people ask my kids if they are okay, lost etc. I'm normally only a few feet away, or I've allowed them to go somewhere but I'm still grateful. Once both my kids aged about 6 and 3 ran off down a beach to the ice cream shop. It took me ages to reach them. luckily a lovely couple realised they were alone and stayed with them. I could tell they were anxious they were 'interfering' but I was full of thanks. I would rather some parent shouted at me for interfering then risk anything worse happening to them.
I think a parent who would object to you asking their child if they are ok would probably be reacting out of that panicky fear you get when you can't see your child. That's not to say there aren't some monumental bellends out there, but I would guess that the vast majority of people would assume that you were trying to help, even if they did't express it in the best terms at the time
Lingering and observing is great, chatting and reassuring too. I would say don't move off with the child, alert a member of staff or call police for assistance.
My youngest got seperated from us as a toddler in a VERY busy train station, a lovely man picked him up and held him up, above the heads of all around so he was easy to spot. We were so, so grateful.
As the mother of several bolters and hiders I'm always grateful when people show concern or intercede. Likewise I have no problem approaching a lone child to see what's up. I'm more than happy to be branded as a pedo loon rather than not get involved and something bad happen.
And people who see something and don't get involved? Arses.
I was in Starbucks at Centerparcs wrestling DC3 away from the cakes and turned to see DC1&2 cheerfully rocking a fully laden table backwards and forwards! And it was packed full of pther families, all who watched and did nothing. I dropped DC3 in the buggy and ran over to stop them and someone said "just in time, that table nearly went over!" Yes. As you watched, you fuckwit.
I approach the child and ask if they know where mummy or daddy are.
If they don't I ask what they were wearing. About half the time you can spot them from the anxious expression and clothes.
If not, I stop someone and ask them to fetch security (if there is). If no security I stay with the child until parent arrives, looking out for them. If they hadn't come within about 15 minutes I call the police. I've once had to do that, thankfully the parents were with them.
Never had a parent have a problem with that.
It's happened to me when I was quite close to my child. I've always smiled and said "thanks, I've got him/her".
I've always genuinely appreciated the concern.
I did it myself the other day to a child that I thought was on their own. He wasn't, the mum was right there. I've no idea why I didn't see her. She did the same. I think most patents would?
I would stop and ask them where their mummy/daddy/whoever is looking after them is to ensure they aren't totally lost, then if no joy attempt to find/attract the attention of their parents, the police or whoever has control of a tannoy for the area.
Frankly I would hope most children had been trained not to speak to strange men, and would be concerned about picking them up and walking off with them to eg: a security office or police station lest I give anyone the fright of their lives, but you have to do something, just in case that child really could come to harm.
I would have a look around, see if I could see an adult waiting for the child/looking at them and I would ask that adult if the child was theirs. I have been the parent standing a short distance from tantrum throwing child waiting for them to give up and follow me many times! If I couldn't see an adult I would approach the child and either alert security or call 101 if no adult forthcoming. I would not take the child anywhere.
I have actually taken a child away from where I found them but only because I saw what direction they had come from. I live round the corner from a major supermarket, the road from my house to there had bollards and was therefore car free so people (me included) would let small children run up to the corner. I was walking back home when a toddler ran past me towards the supermarket. A few second later it registered that there was no adult in sight so I turned and ran after the toddler and managed to grab him just before he vanished into the shop. Not one other person had stopped him, there were security guards near the door (classy area!) and several shoppers coming in and out but not one person had thought to stop a toddler going in on his own. When I got to him he tried to tell me his mum was in the supermarket but having seen where he came from I decided to take him up the street and sure enough before we got too far his mother came racing round the corner in a blind panic. She had a newborn and the toddler had let himself out of the house while she was dealing with the baby. Of course had I not found her then I'd have called 101 at that point.
I'd always rather get shouted at by an irate parent (who is probably worried/stressed and saying things without thinking) than leave a child in a potentially vulnerable situation.
I always stand with the child in this situation and ask if they're lost.
It's not normally long before a panic stricken parent or security guard comes along.
Whatever you do, never, ever just walk past without doing anything. Think of James Bulger and how many people saw him.
If I had seen a little child crying with some scruffy 10yos I would have made damn sure they couldn't do him any further harm. You ask where their parents are and you escort them there.
sorry bit off topic.
^ I think it's about the individuals not knowing with poor little James Bulger, I don't think any blame should be laid at their door. It wouldn't occur to most people to split up a group of children in case they are going to torture and murder each other, however much hindsight is 20/20, and I would expect that nobody normal who saw them is likely to have even conceived of such a thing happening as... what did.
Such outrage and sadness for that child whenever he is mentioned - that is because of how unnatural and unimaginable it was, so it's hard to judge the people who saw him for not realising, even though they will probably judge themselves until they die.
I think considering you're not completely comfortable around children, Lovemydogs, you did absolutely the right thing.
It can be a hard choice though. It is worrying these days even for those used to children. I've found a few lost children and in the past never hesitated to talk to them, take their hand to comfort them, and wait with them until parents turn up.
I found a shrieking toddler obviously lost in a residential area recently. I hesitated for a few seconds and thought 'shit, what do I do'. I worried about taking his hand but did as we were near a road and I was worried he might bolt. Poor kid was absolutely terrified. In the past I'd have picked him up and given him a bit of a cuddle while reassuring him. Nope, I just ineffectually held his hand while he stood there screaming his head off. Mum came tearing round the corner within a minute and was very grateful. I hated second-thinking everything I did.
I was also stuck. I had no phone on me. I couldn't have left the child there.How long should I have just stood there before taking kid into my home to get my phone to call police? If I did that at just the wrong moment, would I be getting done for abduction?
I'm not surprised you felt a bit lost OP, but thank you for keeping an eye on the child until they were safe.
I would keep an eye on them for a couple of minutes in case a parent was standing nearby and I just hadn't noticed them. Then I would approach and ask them where mummy or daddy is. It they're obviously lost it would really depend on the situation. If there was a security guard or information desk nearby I would bring the child to them to deal with. When I found a toddler wandering around a car park in front of some shops once, I walked him up to the shops and got him to point out his mother to me. There was no other adult around to leave him with, I was pretty sure his mum had to be in one of the shops and I couldn't just leave him standing in a car park where a car could swing in at any time.
As a Mother of an ex-bolter and a hider (think cupboards in Ikea) I was grateful to whoever found them. I made sure they could say where mummy is ie kitchen department, that they know my phone number, and we have discussed what to do if lost - Find another mummy. When it used to happen all my advice went out the window and they charged off in a panic.
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