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Missing/hurt children - how do parents let them out?

(17 Posts)
Janus Thu 25-Apr-02 17:21:04

I read in the Times today about a 14 year old boy who has been missing since New Year's Day. He vanished whilst out night-fishing with some friends. I believe the family lived in a sleepy town and he was felt to be mature for his age so his parents let him go fishing, expecting him to return around 2am and got worried when he didn't. I read this quite astounded really as who would let their child of 14 out to return at 2am, all under their own steam (ie not collected by car)? Am I being hard on them? God, as if they don't have enough on their plate without blaming themselves too but this seems to happen a bit too often nowadays.
I guess most people heard of the 6 year old girl killed by the hit and run couple (recently charged with her killing). BUT a 6 year old girl allowed out to play near a dual carriageway, what possesses the parents to think that they are capable at 6 to play near a road? Don't get me wrong, how the couple could stop, realise she was seriously hurt and then drive on I don't know, that is sick and they need punishment.
I live in London so am probably more sensitive to the 'evils' out there so maybe children do get given some freedom, what do you all feel?

threeangels Thu 25-Apr-02 20:46:15

I feel the parents are just not responsible people. I am somewhat picky on what my children do and who they are with. Unless I meet the parents of their friends they are not aloud to play with them. I never let them go into anyones home unless I know the parents. There are too many crazy people out there and you never know what can happen. The problem with alot of parents is that they dont feel anything can happen or they just hide it in their subconcience. They maybe dont take something happening to their own seriously. I guess. I feel it is okay to allow a 14 yr old go fishing but at anytime after dark is rediculous. Those parents must have been not all there. I really feel if your a good parent your gonna watch your kids more carefully. Its only natural. We would definately have less kids kidnapped and killed if we did. Sometimes bad things happen to kids who have wonderful parents. The problem I have is when they knowingly put them at risk. You seem like a conscious and careing parent.

serena Thu 25-Apr-02 22:34:11

Janus I know exactly what you mean. When it comes to just playing outside the door or in the next street, (lots of children round here do,) I don't know how I will feel about letting my son do it when it comes to the time. I think I will be keeping him in sight at all times.

I also feel really worried about school trips, again not an issue yet, but in years to come. After the deaths by drowning last year, and the little girl who was murdered in France, I am paranoid about the idea, but then there must be tons of successful school trips which you never hear about.

I had a bad experience with a playgroup which I trusted and was then told by two different people that they were letting my son ( a fearless wanderer from crawling age) run off out of sight beside a river in spate.

Sorry if this is off the topic.

I can imagine a 14 year old seeming mature enough to go fishing, but there would have to be a responsible adult there. (I think I'd have to tell them that they could have time without adults in a different, safer setting) Then again, an accident could happen with an adult there, or even to an adult.

I don't watch the local news as it always full of these kinds of tragedies that you can do nothing about.

Tillysmummy Fri 26-Apr-02 08:31:15

I think it's very sad indeed and what was a 6 year old doing on her own anyway.

It's so different I guess to when I was young and used to play up and down my street but even then my mum was always watching and I was never allowed to go far.

I definitely don't think I'd let my dd do this. It's sad but she will be strictly restricted to the garden and I don't even think I'd be happy about her walking to school when she was older.

Serena, story about the playgroup worries me. (Sorry bit preoccupied with this at mo) I can't believe they let him do that ?

Zoya Fri 26-Apr-02 15:57:26

Leonie Shaw, the little girl who was run over on the dual carriage way, was playing in a park, supervised by some teenage girls. Press coverage of her death hasn't made clear exactly how she came to be on the road. Try not to let your anxieties about your own children make you too quick to judge a mother who must be going through hell right now.

janh Fri 26-Apr-02 18:00:58

I think when your own children are very young you can't imagine how you will ever let them out. When my eldest (now 20) was around 9, she wasn't allowed off our premises on her own. My youngest is 9 now and, with strict limitations on which roads he is allowed to cross, he goes out on his bike (helmetted) or scooter to his friends' houses for hours.

The case of the 6 year old girl is terrible but it could happen to any of your children, even while out with you - you can't chain them up at home, or tie them to you while you are out in the street...when they are 14,15,16, are you going to insist on driving them to the school doors and collecting them from there? "Milly" (aged 13?) vanished on her way home from school. Danielle (? - aged 15?) vanished on her way to school. Was that their parents' fault?

Accidents happen. Abductions happen. (Sarah Payne's family could hardly have been more careful - that the man who took her was driving past for those few seconds that she was alone was a 1 in a million chance.) We all do our best to prevent them but you have to let your children go sooner or later. If they never have a chance to be responsible for themselves, how are they going to learn, and when? At 18, when they go off to university, with all that money and all that alcohol and all those drugs?

threeangels, far more children are murdered by their families than by strangers. We hear all about the strangers - hardly anything about the families - generally only a tiny paragraph in the middle pages, except for cases like Victoria Climbie and that tragic little girl in Norfolk (Lauren?) whose stepmother went to prison last year.

Of course people who live in big cities need to be more protective of their children than people in small towns, but even so you have to start giving them a chance to practise independence - they are so proud the first time they go somewhere by themselves (and if you feel you have to follow them every step, try not to let them see you!)

ScummyMummy Fri 26-Apr-02 18:22:05

Good posts, Zoya & janh. I completely agree with all your points.

KMG Fri 26-Apr-02 18:26:11

I think it is very sad that we feel this need to BLAME someone when a tragedy happens. You can prevent your children having any freedom at all, and being kept safe, ... but at what cost? My son is nearly 5, he is very sensible, and we live in a quiet area, where lots of children play out. He is allowed to play in the street on his bike, and he knows the rules. I do not watch out of the window the entire time, and on occasion he has fallen off and been picked up by neighbours. I would love for him to be able to walk to school by himself, certainly by age 7, if traffic levels allow it.

We had loads of freedom as children, and I realise that things have changed, and they can't have the kind of childhood I had. But I am not going to keep them locked up because of my fears.

tigermoth Fri 26-Apr-02 22:32:06

As I've posted elsewhere, my son has played outside, without my constant supervision, from an early age. And we live in London, though on the outskirts.

He has strict ground rules and has, IMO, really gained from having this independence. He has made lots of local friends, he has a great connection with the area, he gets lots of fresh air and exercise and his fun is not (always) dependent on expensive toys and technology.

When we moved house, we deliberately chose a quiet area where it was commonplace to see children play outside. A few years on, we are now at the stage where my son wants a bigger area to roam around in. He's nearly 8. Scary for us to give him more freedom, but letting him go is a progressive thing. He's adhered to our rules, pretty much, so now it's`time to give him more slack. Dh and I have been racking our brains about this recently. We fear acccident and abduction, as any parent does. But ,IMO, it's foolish to do all the letting go when your child reaches the age of 14, 15, 16.

I really agree with janh's post.

As for the fishing and dual carriageway reports, yes, on the surface the risks seem great, but, as Zoya says, who knows the real story? Looking at the children who play out in our area, hundreds and hundreds of them every day, reports of fatal accidents or abductions are, thank goodness, virtually zero.

IME, early involvment in petty crime and mixing with the wrong teenage company is a far bigger, though less life-threatening risk.

Janus Sat 27-Apr-02 09:16:01

I do agree that children should be given some freedom, mine is only 21 months so perhaps it is hard to imagine but I assume this comes with time and a lot of guidance and when you feel they understand what you are telling them.
But would you let your 6 year old go off with some teenagers? I was totally incapable of this sort of responsibility as a teenager and probably until I really had children myself and understood exactly how easily and quickly they could take off when the urge takes them. I'm sure those teenagers were considered responsible and probably had done this loads of times before but it only takes one mobile phone call or text message, etc, which does seem to be predominant in all teenagers lives, to make them just take their eye off a child for 2 mins and disaster and tragedy to strike. As you do argue though, this could happen to a mother too but I'm sure I don't actually take my eyes off mine but, again, she's only 21 months. I don't think I'm trying to apportion BLAME as such but I just thought 6 sounded young to be away from your mother but maybe it is just because I'm nowhere near this stage.
I hope mine does get a chance to play on a bike, etc, in the street. My childhood was definitely about playing with all the other children in the street but the whole street knew each other and other parents would look out for other people’s children, much as your street sounds KMG. I love the idea of streets like these still existing, ours was a dead-end road though so no through traffic which made a huge difference, probably like yours KMG. Would you honestly let yours go off to a park by a dual carriageway with teenagers though? Maybe one was a cousin so had a more involved sense of responsibility, again I agree that reporting can distort the true story here.
I was allowed to walk to school, which involved crossing quite busy roads, at around 12. This was, for me, the right age to understand roads and I always walked with friends, I think my mother had this right. I agree that anyone's child could be 'Millie', you would assume that at 4.00pm your child would be safe, I cannot imagine what her parents are going through. I know at 14 I wouldn't have been allowed to be out, without adult supervision, until 2am, although it was fishing rather than drinking and being in a disco. Again, maybe my opinion will change when mine is somewhere near that age but I do doubt it.
I agree you can't chain children indoors, you must give them some freedom and I know I am going to find this hard, I guess.
I think I probably shouldn't have started this thread as without the full information I guess you cannot really comment.

Bozza Sat 27-Apr-02 13:36:33

I think this is a very difficult area and one can never be 100% certain to have got the balance right. However I definitely endorse the point that freedom/independence should be gradually increased. My son is only 14 months so not yet an issue but I would rather think of him playing with the others on our cul-de-sac (complete with grassed area) than sat at the playstation. However some of the kids round here (even quite young - 5 or 6) were playing out after dark which is something I would not be comfortable with. As far as trusting your child with a teenager - that depends entirely on the teenager. I think I myself could have been trusted at that age but not sure on others. Also maybe one teenager would be safer than a group - as in more focused and less risk of distraction from others.

janh Sat 27-Apr-02 18:55:52

Bozza and Janus, of course you are both right, it is very difficult and very subjective, and very dependent upon where you live, to get the balance right.
Janus, you were perfectly justified in starting the thread. I hope you didn't think I was criticising you. All any of us can do is try to weigh up the risks. We protect our children according to our own perceptions and circumstances.
You can let your child out alone 100 times, 1000 times, and nothing happens, but the 101st or 1001st something might do. I do worry about my son all the time he's out but I don't want to keep him in against his will and, like tigermoth, I'd rather he was out in the fresh air than hunched over a computer (like me!) or slouched in front of the TV.
Your children are both very little right now and, like me when mine were small, you can't imagine letting them play out - before or, especially, after dark. When they are older you can let them practise crossing roads, with strict supervision, but recognise that under 7 (and maybe nearer 8-9-10) they lack the judgment to be 100% reliable alone.
All you can do is protect them as best you can and give them as much freedom as their maturity seems to allow. But do try to help them grow up and be independent as they get older.

tigermoth Sat 27-Apr-02 19:06:07

I think that allowing your child to cross the road without an adult is a real test of faith. Our son is still not allowed to do this, except on very specific occasions and with a trusted friend. I read somewhere that boys, especially, can't reliably judge the speed of moving objects until they are about 9 years old. As we are considering giving him a bigger roaming around area, I would really like to know more about this research.

MalmoMum Sun 28-Apr-02 00:27:08

I think the general age for traffic awareness is thought to be around 7-8. The Child Accident Prevention Trust should have the info along with RoSPA.

KMG Sun 28-Apr-02 18:28:23

You also have to recognise what your child is like. My eldest son (nearly 5) is very sensible with anything "dangerous", he has never ever even stepped onto a road without holding my hand, even though he gets quite loopy with excitement sometimes. I don't let him cross roads by himself yet, but I am preparing him for this, in that he makes the decision now as to when it is safe to cross.

My youngest (almost 3), however, is an entirely different child. He thinks it is hysterical to escape mummy's grasp and run into the road! He has always been like this, and I cannot imagine when I will trust him to go anywhere on his own ...!

jenny2998 Tue 30-Apr-02 22:10:34

I remember being a child and really resenting my parents being so restrictive. All my friends were allowed to play out, but I was only allowed in the close we lived in, and I was always walked to school.

Now I'm Mum I completely understand and feel I am probably going to be very overprotective of my children (currently aged 3 1/2 and 1).

I know you can't wrap them up in cotton wool, but I am constantly aware of the risks all around.

serena Wed 01-May-02 23:58:26

Tillysmummy, I know, we took him out immediately and they were subsequently investigated by social services and told to change their tactics.

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