It is said that every child is in need of a thousand angels to protect him from the myriad threats and dangers of day-to-day living.
A most important and productive action we can take is to continuously pour out our hearts in tefillah on their behalf, recognizing that ultimately the fate of every living being is in the hands of Hashem.
But our belief in the need for siyatta diShmaya should never be an excuse for us to neglect our requisite hishtadlus, especially in matters that require vigilance.
As the two-month summer vacation season begins and families are busy shopping, stocking up on supplies for the mass exodus to the Catskills, this is an opportune time to stop and review our responsibilities.
A child should never be left unattended in public, no matter how safe the area is considered to be. After all, no one in his right mind would leave a diamond ring or gold watch unattended — or even a wallet stuffed with cash, for that matter.
Shouldn’t our precious children get — at the very least — the same degree of concern as a replaceable material object?
Fathers and mothers, as well as babysitters of every age, must realize that leaving a young child alone, whether an infant “securely” strapped in his carriage or a precocious three-year-old — even for a moment — is downright dangerous.
After a long and harsh winter, adults and children are rightfully eager to enjoy the outdoors. But the summer also brings its own set of challenges. Swimming pools provide a healthy and much-needed outlet for exercise and relaxation, but it is imperative that all necessary precautions be taken to ensure that it a pool is inaccessible to unaccompanied youngsters — both those who can walk and those who can only crawl.
The parking lots of bungalow colonies and summer camps also pose a very real threat.
Children who can walk tend to explore on their own, even if they were clearly instructed (and even warned) to stay put. Children often astonish their parents or babysitters by how far and how fast they can wander off.
For those who stay in the city, kids riding bikes or electric scooters — or children in hot pursuit of a lost or flying ball — are unlikely to remember their parents’ admonitions as they run or ride headlong toward traffic.
Almost every summer there is at least one case of a would-be abductor who attempts to lure a child into a car. Children must be made alert to this danger.
“Don’t talk to strangers” is an important year-round lesson, but it is especially true in the summer months, when youngsters often play outside for hours on end. Younger children must be supervised by adults and not by other children — who, although they may be mature for their age, can easily get caught up in an exciting game and thereby lose track of younger siblings.
Statistics indicate that the majority of crimes involving children are perpetrated by people they know well. (It is fair to call this an even more sinister threat than “stranger danger.”) It is painful for us to acknowledge that, while these individuals’ actions are the antithesis of a Torah-true life, there are those who appear to conduct themselves as model members of our community, yet pose a serious threat to the safety of others.
In this matter, communication is crucial. Children must be tactfully taught that these dangers exist, and how to deal with them. Emphasize to your children that they will never be reprimanded or blamed for revealing something that happened, and again and again remind them that anyone who tries to tell them to hide something from their parents intends to do harm.
If children are asked to do something that they feel uncertain or uncomfortable about, they should insist on contacting a parent immediately. When this is not possible, they should be instructed to turn to an adult in authority.
Even though children are excited over the idea of going to camp, they often become homesick — a feeling that could make them vulnerable to such dangers.
Parents should ask sleepaway-camp personnel in advance what the protocol is if a child feels the need to report any type of conduct that makes him or her uneasy, and then the child should be instructed accordingly. Preferably, campers should be introduced (together) to their summer “mommy” or “tatty” before camp.
Some camps have designated specific senior staff members as mashgichim to monitor the grounds. They act much like kashrus supervisors at food factories, and visit all parts of the camp at frequent but irregular — and thus unpredictable — intervals, keeping a sharp eye out for any inappropriate conduct. It is time for all camps to emulate this practice.
In the merit of undertaking our requisite hishtadlus for our children, may Hashem protect all His children from all harm.