Kidnapping is a reality

According to Missing Children South Africa, one child goes missing every five hours in SA. Sadly, very few of these incidences ever make the headlines in quite the same way as the recent kidnapping of Amy-Lee de Jager. According to a News24 report, the “6-year-old Grade R girl was kidnapped by four men in front of Laerskool Kollegepark in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng,” and thankfully, she has since been safely returned to her family.

What you should do:

  • Know your child’s whereabouts at all times.
  • At a very early age, teach your child their name, address and telephone number and your first and last name.
  • Teach them how to call 10111 for help.
  • Make sure children know how to make local and long-distance telephone calls.
  • Teach your children to scream as loudly as possible, and that it is okay to do so when afraid.
  • Never leave children alone in a car, not even for a few seconds.
  • Establish strict procedures for picking up children at school, after movies, at friends’ homes, etc.
  • Establish a family code word that only you, your child and a trusted relative or friend knows. Teach your child to ask for the code word when approached by someone offering them a ride.
  • Remind your children to never accept a ride from someone you don’t know, even if the child knows them.
  • Talk to your children about child abduction in a simple, non-threatening way.
  • Listen to your child when he or she discusses anyone they have met or spoken with when you weren’t around.
  • Have photographs taken of your children at least four times a year (especially for pre-schoolers). Make note of birthmarks or other distinguishing features.
  • Have your child fingerprinted and store the prints in a safe, easily accessible place in your home. 

Teach your children to:

  • Never leave home without your permission. Very small children should play only in areas away from the street, such as a backyard, or in a play area supervised by a responsible adult.
  • Never wander off, to avoid lonely places, and to avoid shortcuts through alleys or deserted areas. They are safer walking or playing with friends.
  • Come straight home from school unless you have made other arrangements.
  • Never enter anyone’s home without your approval.
  • If accosted by a stranger in a mall, scream ‘This is not my Daddy!’ and get behind the nearest shop counter.
  • Scream, run away and tell you or a trusted adult if anyone attempts to touch or grab them, of if a stranger offers them a ride.
  • Never give any information over the telephone including their name and address, or indicate they are alone.
  • Keep doors locked and admit only authorized people into the house.

“My kid bumped his head!” When you should seek medical attention

“Every potential head injury in children should be taken seriously. As parents, we need to be aware of the risks of this common type of childhood injury so that we can ensure our children receive appropriate medical assessment and treatment in the event of a head injury.” Emergency medicine practitioner Dr Bianca Visser explains why parents should pay close attention when a child takes a bump to the head.

Getting to know themselves and the environment around them make children particularly prone to bumping or sustaining blows to their heads.

It can happen any number of ways like during play, or while participating in contact sports.

For Dr Bianca Visser, a medical professional at the emergency department of Netcare Unitas Hospital, every blow and bump to the head warrants attention and at the very least, a medical assessment.

Because symptoms of a concussion vary greatly, it may be difficult for parents to determine when to seek medical attention.

What could be a serious injury may not come across as such for every child, but a loss in consciousness should not be the only yardstick parents use to gauge whether medical attention is necessary.

“A ‘blackout’ after a head injury should not be considered as the only reason to take your child to the emergency department for a medical assessment. Children can have a severe concussion without losing consciousness,” she explains.

Acknowledging that not all bumps will result in serious injury, Dr Bianca says the need to get an assessment remains crucial because serious head injuries are not immediately apparent, such as “a broken bone in the skull, a bruised brain or a bleed in or around the brain.”

After an examination, a doctor will be able to rule out serious injuries like fractures, brain bleeds or brain bruises, but if worrying symptoms persist, a final diagnosis of concussion will be made.

Here are a few ways you protect your child from head injury:

Use child car seats and booster seats correctly and ensure that your child is correctly strapped in when travelling.

Teach your child bicycle safety and the importance of wearing a helmet.

Teach your child how to be safe around streets and cars.

Teach your child playground safety to minimise the risk of them falling from heights.

Human Trafficking Prevention Tips

1.Teach your children to run away from danger, never towards it.

Danger is anyone or anything that invades their personal space. Teach them to yell. Their safety is more important than being polite. Teach your children if they are ever followed by a car to turn around and run the other direction to you or a trusted adult. If someone grabs them try through themselves on the floor, kick, scream, move around and fight because it is difficult to be picked up when your full weight is on the ground.

2.Never let your children go to places alone.

Always supervise your young children or make sure there is a trusted adult present to supervise them if you cannot. Make sure your older children always take a friend with when they go somewhere.

3.Know where your children are and who is with them at all times.

Remind your children to never take anything or respond in any way if approached by someone they do not know. Teach them to run away as quickly as they can to you or a trusted adult.

4. Talk openly to your children about safety.

In addition to this, encourage them to tell you or a trusted adult if anyone or anything makes them feel frightened, confused or uncomfortable. Discuss security issues with your children so they will understand the need for precautions. Advise your older children about steps they can take to help safeguard themselves. Know your children’s friends and their families. Pay attention to your children and listen to them. If you don’t, there is always someone else who will.

5.Practice what you preach by creating “what if” scenarios with your children.

This is to make sure they understand the safety message and can use it in a real situation.

6.Consider installing an alarm system in your home with a monitoring feature.

Make sure your home secured with deadbolt locks and ensure landscaping around it does not provide places for people to hide. Check other access points, such as gates, and make sure they have been secured. Consider installing exterior lighting around your home. Make sure your home is fully secured before you go to sleep and items, such as ladders, have been stored inside. Prepare a plan to vacate your home in case of an emergency. This should include, but is not limited to, a fire. Have a plan if an intruder tries or gets into your home.

7.Make your children part of securing your home.

If you have installed an alarm system, demonstrate it to your children and show them how to make sure certain doors and windows are locked. This will not only help them calm their fears but will also help make them part of your “safety plan” at home. Have a safe room in the house and keep a cellphone in there for emergencies. In case of an emergency, lock the door and don’t come out before a chosen word by family is said.

8.Have a list of family members who could be contacted in case of an emergency.

Designate a family member or close associate who would be able to fill the role of advisor in case of an emergency.

9. Be aware of your surroundings.

Know the escape routes and plan what you would do in different emergencies. Practice “what if” scenarios, so you will be well-prepared. Know the location of local hospitals and the best routes to reach them. Know how to reach the nearest local law-enforcement agency.

10. Know your employees and co-workers.

Do background screening and reference checks on everyone who works at your home, particularly those individuals who care for your children. Their knowledge of your family is extensive so make sure you have an equivalent understanding of who they are.

11. Consider varying your daily routines and habits.

Do not take the same routes or leave at the same time for your regular errands. If you take your children to school, try to change that route as well.

12.Take steps to secure personal information about yourself.

Consider getting a post office box and a safety deposit box. Have your personal bills sent to your place of work or the post office box. Be discrete about your family’s possessions and family’s personal habits and information. If you or your family purchases something expensive, do not put the item’s box outside your house. Rather tear it up and hide it among your recycled rubbish.

13.Report any suspicious persons or activities to law enforcement.

Do not become complacent about personal security issues.

15.When you are in a mall and a child gets kidnapped, make sure the child calls out the name of the parent rather than mommy or daddy because, at that moment, anyone can be mommy or daddy.

Make sure that at the age of 5, your child knows at least one cellphone number of a parent or close family member. teach them self-defence methods to the eyes, nose, groin etc.

“Prevention is better than cure. We live in terrible times, watch out for your loved ones. Lastly, be upstanding and report to your nearest police station and get a case number so you can spread the incident on social media for all to see. It cuts out that it is a hoax as it can be verified by SAPS,” said Nana Rechner, director and founder of the organisation.

Pointers for easier potty training

Incorrect toilet training can lead to problems ranging from bed-wetting and daytime accidents to urinary tract infections.

Are you frustrated with the way your toddler’s toilet training is going?

First, keep in mind that the average age for potty training is between two and three years old. While there’s no link between how young toddlers master the toilet and their intelligence, they do need to be physically, emotionally and mentally ready.

Correct training

Some cognitive developments – such as memory, focus and even imagination – may not begin until two-and-a-half years of age. Verbal skills, needed to communicate any potty problems to mom and dad, may not develop until age three.

It is very important that the correct process be followed because toilet training children incorrectly can lead to problems ranging from bed-wetting and daytime accidents to urinary tract infections, according to experts.

Here are some potty pointers:

  • Build on your child’s desire for approval and the natural urge to imitate. The same-sex parent can show how to use the bathroom by example.
  • Be positive and praise progress, but don’t yell or punish mishaps.
  • Be consistent with bathroom routines, including how to wipe and how to wash hands.
  • Adjust your role as needed. Be there to resolve problems, but you may need to be less controlling.
  • Stay low-key. Your child will pick up on any stress you feel.

Once in preschool, many kids will be motivated by peer pressure and the desire to wear regular underpants. Toilet training tends to become more self-directed, with less effort from you. So, experts suggest making it more your child’s project and less your own as they get older.

Once your toddler is ready, the actual learning process takes about six weeks, but expect accidents and even some steps backwards. It’s also normal to take longer for kids to be able to stay dry throughout the night.

Dealing with head lice

Dear Parent:

A case of head lice has been detected in your child’s class. Anyone can get head lice… mainly through direct head-to-head contact but also from sharing hats, brushes and other personal items.

Head lice are a problem in many communities and do not reflect poor hygiene or social status.

Please do your part to prevent the spread of this communicable condition by checking your child(ren) daily for the next few weeks, and on a regular basis thereafter. Lice infestation is much easier to treat if caught early.

If you should discover a case of head lice, please notify your child’s school, teacher and notify the parents of your child’s playmates. This is the best way to protect your family and community.

National Routine Immunisation Schedule in SA

The Department of Health’s Extended Programme of Immunisation (EPI SA)

Age Vaccine Also known as Protects against
Birth TOPV 1 (Trivalent) Oral polio vaccine Polio
Birth BCG Bacillus Calmette Guerin Tuberculosis
6 weeks TOPV 2 (Trivalent) Oral polio vaccine Polio
6 weeks RV 1 Rotarix Rotavirus
6 weeks PCV 1 Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine: Prevenar Pneumococcal diseases
6 weeks DTap-IPV//Hib 1 Pentaxim (5-in-one) Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (whooping cough), inactivated polio vaccine, haemophilus influenzae type B
6 weeks Hep B 1 Hepatitis B vaccine Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
10 weeks DTap-IPV//Hib 2 Pentaxim Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenzae type B
10 weeks Hep B 2 Hepatitis B vaccine Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
14 weeks RV 2 Rotarix Rotavirus
14 weeks PCV 2 Prevenar Pneumococcal diseases
14 weeks DTap-IPV//Hib 3 Pentaxim Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenzae type B
14 weeks Hep B 3 Hepatitis B vaccine Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
6/9 months Measles 1 Measles vaccine Measles
9 months PCV 3 Prevenar Pneumococcal diseases
12/18 months Measles 2 Measles vaccine Measles
18 months DTap-IPV//Hib 4 Pentaxim Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenzae type B
6 years Td 1 Diftavax Tetanus, diphtheria
9 years HPV 1 (girls) Human papilloma virus
9.5 years HPV 2 (girls) Human papilloma virus
12 years Td 2 Diftavax Tetanus, diphtheria


Study Tips

Once you are certain that your child has planned ahead sufficiently and is aware of
all the deadlines, commitments and requirements over the next school term, you can begin to look at HOW they are studying.

  • There are some obvious no-no’s like studying with the TV on or studying in a
    crowded and busy place. Despite the teenagers’ insistence that the TV/iPod etc.
    makes them concentrate better, it DOES NOT.
  • Research has shown that they need to be in a quiet, well-ventilated, uncluttered
    space – preferably at a desk with a white or blank wall in front of them.
  • It is important to divide subjects up into specific time frames so that they do not get
    bored or overloaded with one subject. Depending on the age, children should study
    for 30 – 55 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. During the break, they should
    leave the room, stretch, have a drink and get some fresh air before going back to the
    study area.
  • Once the subject for studying has been chosen, have a look at how it can be made
    more story-like. Think of the movies that they watch and how much of the information
    they retain when stories are told with colour and variation.
  • Subjects like history & geography are perfect examples. The child should have a
    blank paper and coloured pens and create a brief timeline story out of the subject.
    Get the general story right first and then later, add specifics like dates and numbers.
  • Certain subjects like maths require PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Doing
    calculations over and over until it becomes 2nd nature is the only way to ensure that
    the information is retained.  Remember it is not only about these exams but about
    having sufficient retention to be able to move up a year and carry on with more
    complex work.
  • Studying languages is somewhere in the middle. There are instances where stories
    can be created and in other cases, there is just plain old fashioned Rote learning

If your child understands these different study options and arranges the study
timetable in advance, the studying will be varied and in small, regular doses and will
seem much more manageable.

Teaching kids how to save money

Money does not grow on trees, our parents cautioned, and like the obedient children we were, we listened—well, mostly.

From the amount of “I wants…!” sounding off in stores these days, I’m guessing the kids have not gotten the same memo.

Do you talk to your children about money? Probably not as often as necessary.

And yet, wanting to keep them informed without burdening them with concerns about money can be a fine line to tread.

Teaching kids about money is a multifaceted undertaking, with it comes lessons on responsibility, setting goals, and making decisions.

Nothing beats taking from real life examples to teach them important lessons.  How much pocket money do you give your child?

Drafting the monthly budget

Going through the monthly budget can be an excellent way of giving your kids an overview of income and expenses, strengthening their concept of money. Be extra cautious though not to mention financial struggles or frustrations. Stick to the basics.

At an ATM

Do you remember your first encounter with the ATM machine as a child? After pushing a few buttons, our parents made cash appear out of thin air, right? This is the perfect time to talk to your kids about earning a living and making decisions on spending.

Be sure not to leave out an explanation on how this nifty contraption really works.

When paying the bills

Definitely not something we normally do with our children present, but giving them an idea of where money goes and why could not be more beneficial in getting them to understand the value of money, how saving in the present means doing fun things in the future, and that paying the bills is an on-going responsibility for all adults.

This is also a great time to clue them up on how they can help with saving non-monetary essentials like electricity and water.

At the shops 

It may seem like an obvious time, but with a packed store and a long list of items to get to, the thought of fitting in a conversation on budgeting might be at the very bottom of your to-do list.

But what better time to introduce the idea of pricing, especially when requests for treats start rolling in. Turn it into a game by asking them to find the best prices for the items on your shopping list.

Here, you could also establish the difference between a necessity and a want.

When seeking insurance coverage

Clue them up on the how you include insurance costs in your monthly budget, and that even though initially it may be expensive, it can be an incredible money saver in the long run.

When providing their pocket money 

If you’re giving them a certain amount of money every month, you also need to give them guidelines, specifying what your child can and cannot do with their money is one way of doing this, suggesting that they save or donate a certain percentage is another example.

Introduce age appropriate books and apps they could use to manage their money.

When gifted with money 

Receiving money on a birthday or holiday is the perfect time to introduce the idea of saving. By discussing why it is important, along with the different ways they could save, you instill invaluable lessons for their future.

When paying debt

Don’t forget keeping it basic is key, a general run through of what debt is and how it works is all you need to inform them about for now.


Playground fights: where do you stand?

How do you handle playground incidents? What kind of parent are you? And what do you teach your kids about conflict resolution? Estrelita Moses lays it out.

Pushing and shoving in the playpen is a given. Playground politics is a given. There’s always a barney of sorts. There will always be the pre-teen who is age-inappropriate for the kiddies play area. Or the slightly older boys and girls who just play roughly with no regard for the little ones sharing the area. The roughnecks, the bullies, the child who cries just because, the leaders of the pack. The list is endless.

It’s how you deal with said politics that sets the stage for a relatively cool meltdown, or one of epic proportions à la Spur dad style. In case you haven’t been seen it, here’s the crux of the matter.

A brawl between parents resulted in Spur restaurants nationwide banning a man who could be seen being verbally abusive to a fellow diner after an apparent scuffle between their children in the play area. A child was grabbed. The altercation is an ugly one. The language is ugly – by both parties. The whole thing was, well, ugly – very ugly. The jury is still out on to what extent race, gender and anger management issues played a part in it. Was he just a bloody bully?

But no matter how one looks at it, the children on both sides bore witness to this appalling behaviour. And no child should have to watch his or her parent behave in such a manner.

So in the parent hierarchy of playground politics, which one are you?

Are you the one blinded by rage at even the slightest provocation? Do you tend to let your children roam free in play areas – “come back only if there’s real blood”? Or do you watch out for the one sucker you know will watch the entire play area, the parent who tends to hover, helicopter rotor blades at full speed?

I used to hover a lot when Luca was younger. He is four and half now, so I hover a bit less. Parents can spot it a mile off. I would be the one parent who’d stand in the play area while the other moms would drink wine and eat in relative peace and quiet. A knowing wink or nod: Do you mind keeping an eye? You’re already there. And I would – because at the end I prefer keeping an eye on my own child. Yip, even at the Spur.

Free-range or helicopter parent?

It is relatively easy to nip mini meltdowns in the bud if you have an eye on what’s happening. Watch for long enough and you can usually tell if a situation has the potential to escalate. That is when I usually go in, mostly at eye-level (on my knees) and, shock horror, have a reasonable conversation.

My usual approach is to speak to my son first and find out exactly what the issue is. Or to call him aside – usually within earshot of the potential offender – and say to please be careful, for such and such a reason. Most times the presence of an adult or the sense that someone is watching tends to calm things down somewhat. It is seldom that it doesn’t.

On the odd occasion when it does, I have learned to pick my battles, rather just step way and extricate my child from a potentially poisonous confrontation. Yes there is a time to stand up for yourself, and your child, but there is also a time when you back down and walk away.

“I am a wolf mom”

I wouldn’t want my child seeing me scream like a banshee at a complete stranger (God knows he gets that at home for free!). Or worse.

What I do want my child to learn is to pick his battles. By all means stand up for yourself, but don’t become a bully in the process. Being overly aggressive won’t calm an explosive situation. And once it’s blown up, the way back is a long one.

And most of the time, the big losers are the children involved.