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Is your child terrified of abduction as a result of the Madeleine McCann incident?

(29 Posts)
expatkat Tue 16-Sep-08 14:05:43

Ds, who's nearly 9, has trouble sleeping, even. I tried to protect him from it way back when it happened, but he was old enough to read the front page headlines in the newspapers strewn around the underground and the buses. He asked me questions about it back then, and I tried to answer honestly but reassuringly.

Anyway he didn't mention it again until a couple of months ago, when he admitted he's been afraid for a long time, but hasn't wanted to tell me. sad

I've reassured him in every way that I can think of, and I sometimes even stay with him in his bedrrom until he falls asleep.

Is this fear common, do you think? It makes me think the whole media frenzy may have had a bad effect on lots of children.

edam Tue 16-Sep-08 14:07:35

Oh, poor sausage. Can you look up some of the children's charity websites - they might have sections about dealing with fear?

edam Tue 16-Sep-08 14:10:06

Tell him you know a journalist (me) who says the reason it got so much news coverage is precisely because it is so very, very, very rare. Things that happen a lot aren't news. So 'child gets to school OK, comes home, all fine' is never mentioned.

expatkat Tue 16-Sep-08 14:12:24

LOL edam.

I've said about it being a "rare" thing, but it will mean more coming from a Proper Journalist.

mrsgboring Tue 16-Sep-08 14:16:47

Would it help to talk about how MM was only 4 and he's a big boy of 9 who would be able to shout and call for help, get police etc. Teach him to make an emergency call if he doesn't already know.

Might be hard to do without making it seem like a realistic likelihood, but maybe if he didn't feel powerless in the face of an (admittedly extremely rare) evil it might help.

GooseyLoosey Tue 16-Sep-08 14:19:30

Can you go through exactly what his fear are and attempt to address them. Ie someone coming in through the window - window locks; someone creeping into his bedroom - one of those fab spy kits that come with pressure mats. All reinforced by the fact that as edam said it is very, very, very rare.

crokky Tue 16-Sep-08 14:20:36

agree with mrsboring, but MM was actually only 3 so tell him that - it's not a lie even tho she was a few days off 4

singyswife Tue 16-Sep-08 14:25:29

My dd (7) is still freeked out by this and often asks questions out of the blue such as 'mummy if someone stole me would you search for me until you die'. It really had an impact on her, she is totally freeked out by people being able to smash windows to come in and get her or smash the car windows and steal her (thats not likely to happen as she doesnt get left in the car)/. So basically yes it has had an impact on her.

singyswife Tue 16-Sep-08 14:25:32

My dd (7) is still freeked out by this and often asks questions out of the blue such as 'mummy if someone stole me would you search for me until you die'. It really had an impact on her, she is totally freeked out by people being able to smash windows to come in and get her or smash the car windows and steal her (thats not likely to happen as she doesnt get left in the car)/. So basically yes it has had an impact on her.

singyswife Tue 16-Sep-08 14:25:47

sorry didnt mean to post twice.

edam Tue 16-Sep-08 14:28:36

I'm not quite sure that I qualify as a proper journalist (or indeed a proper anything). grin But it is how I earn my living!

Your boy is not like Madeleine - he is not a small child left alone in an unlocked hotel room in Portugal, too little to raise the alarm, for starters (no criticism of the McCanns, just pointing out the differences).

News values in the McCann case: extraordinary, dramatic, extremely rare case (nothing like it for 20 years) pulls on that 'it could happen to me' fear even though it it wouldn't really, contrast between normal family holiday of the sort millions of people enjoy and horror of missing child.

And a very media-friendly family who had advisers and spokespeople very early on (for good reason, they wanted to get their daughter back). Who were 'respectable' so people could identify with them - people are less likely to worry so intensely about missing children where there is a complex family situation - it 'couldn't happen to me' because 'I'm not like them'. (I am not saying this is right, I'm saying this is the way it works because that's how people think.)

cece Tue 16-Sep-08 14:29:31

My DD had a freak out when we were holiday in Spain this year and kept having bad dreams. I expalined how rare it was and also how she had been left alone in an unlocked apartment. She was shock at that but it seemed to ease her fears.

CarofromWton Tue 16-Sep-08 14:30:31

Yep, here too. DD1 (nearly 10) is terrified and I always have to wait upstairs until she's asleep.

nooka Tue 16-Sep-08 14:31:56

Neither of my children were more than vaguely aware of the MM thing, just enough for me to go through the "what to do in case of adult trying to make you do something you don't want to do". hey are nine and eight. But ds is inclined to worrying thoughts before bed. In his case these were triggered by a visit to the Natural History Museum's earthquake room. For months afterwards we would have conversations about whether we were in a flood plain, whether our front door was strong enough in case of a mud slide etc. After a while he stopped worrying about it, but he was genuinely stressed for quite a while. Interestingly he had visited the same exhibition with school a few weeks before and was completely unscathed, and had prior to that really enjoyed reading about disasters. I wonder whether this is a developmental thing? Maybe the concept of bad things happening, or maybe of bad things which parents can't stop comes quite late? For ds we did the practical things, read up on where earthquakes happened, why we weren't at risk etc, and this did reassure him. Important to take it seriously, but not too seriously (ie make sure he knows that you aren't frightened too) I think.

mabanana Tue 16-Sep-08 14:33:37

I would point out that MM was little and alone and that you'd never leave him alone and would not let anyone take him, plus he's a big boy and who would want a snotty, cheeky little monkey like him! Obviously I don't mean your child isn't adorable (mine are snotty cheeky little monkeys!) but I think humour can help.

(again, not intended as criticism of McCanns)

nooka Tue 16-Sep-08 14:35:18

Actually I can remember as a child thinking (very vividly) about people breaking into my bedroom, fires floods etc without any triggers that I can remember. I don't think I told my parents - maybe my big sister. Perhaps it is just a progression from monsters under the bed? Although ds told me that he worried about that too (even though he acknowledged that he really knew they weren't there).

MadameCastafiore Tue 16-Sep-08 14:36:48

I got told off when we were out on Saturday for saying to DD who is 8 that she musn't just walk off - we were at an event in a huge field filled with people - because if someone did try and take her I wouldn't have seen - got royally told off for scaring her by an old man but we went through this when she walked off alone before and was missing for 20 minutes - I would rather scare the pants off of her than there ever be a chance of her thinking it is ok to stray from me in a crowded place and there even be a slight chance of her being abducted.

She did ask me about MM when it happened as she read it in the paper and I told her that it wouldn't happen to her because she would never be left somewhere on her own, here or on holiday. Maybe that would reassure your son?

Eowyn Tue 16-Sep-08 14:37:30

my dd, now 8, worried when we were booking a holiday that she would be "stolen". I reassured her that we wouldn't be leaving her, also that a little 3 yr old is v different to her, eventually managed to turn it into a joke about someone staggering along carrying a great big 8 yr old....
seemed to work in the end, as far as I can tell..

nooka Tue 16-Sep-08 14:46:46

Bit of humour always helps I think. I would never tell my children that they might be stolen. But I do tell them that they might not be able to find me if they got separated from us, and then we would all be very upset and frightened. Then we agree on what we would do if we did by any chance get separated. I think it is better to discuss likely scenarios and equip them with the skills they need to cope with the unexpected (ie knowing their phone numbers, having a meeting up point, knowing which adults would be able to help them etc). But then I give my children (8 and 9) more freedom than many.

cory Tue 16-Sep-08 16:04:27

I think Nooka is onto something and that it is at least partly a developmental thing. I remember being equally troubled by reading an account of a boating accident in London, and I know some children have been very worried by thoughts of terrorist attacks or (if of my generation) by the Cold War.

nooka Tue 16-Sep-08 16:14:54

Yes I can remember friends being really seriously scared about nuclear war (although this was at secondary school). Personally I can't see the pint in being worried about something that is highly unlikely to happen, and that you can't do anything about in any case. But I think that these things are probably dictated by your personality and approach to life.

expatkat Tue 16-Sep-08 17:16:25

Well this is all interesting and helpful

Cory and Nooka: I agree it might be a developmental thing. I was very frightened at his age too: hypochondriacal stuff, mainly, like I thought was going blind, or had cancer or whatnot--things I'd overheard on TV news etc.

Mabanana: I've said the"snotty cheeky monkey" thing too, or words to that effect. It makes him smile, so i guess it works.

mrsgboring Wed 17-Sep-08 09:33:52

Libby Purves writes pretty well (IMO) on this subject in "How not to raise a perfect child" Maybe worth a look?

expatkat Wed 17-Sep-08 09:44:16

I paraphrased to ds some of the suggestions on here, including your really good one, mrsgboring, about reminding him he's so much older that MM and knows how to get help, He smiled and looked so relieved, so thanks everyone.

I think chlldren (& adults) who are genetically prone to anxiety just find somewhere random to attach their anxiety. So maybe the anxiety shift now to some new thing. But at least he feels more relieved about this particular worry.

bozza Wed 17-Sep-08 09:47:53

My DS (7) was really not aware of the MM case that much. He was more aware of the Shannon Matthews case last summer because that was more local to us and there were posters up locally eg at the swimming baths etc. However, obviously, that had a different outcome.

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