Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succos and Simchas Torah are here. Jewish Community Watch would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you and your families a wonderful new year, and remind you of some important safety tips to keep in mind during this exciting season.
While most tips are geared for parents, it’s so important to remember that as adults, we EACH have a responsibility to keep all the children in our community safe. If you see an adult acting suspiciously or a child in an unsafe situation, speak to their parents or the police. Remember, if our own child was in danger we’d want any adult who witnessed it to step in and lend a hand. Don’t hesitate to seek some advice from a professional if you’re unsure how to handle a scenario you’ve witnessed.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
* Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mean LOTS of davening… which often can mean long periods of unsupervised play time for the kids. Planning ahead can help; make sure to stock up on plenty of quiet toys and snacks so kids can stay occupied in a supervised area of the house or shul, instead of wandering off while Mom is trying to daven. Kids should never be playing in a room with a locked door; parents should be able to check in from time to time and make sure all is well.
*Many shuls are kind enough to provide a play area for kids, and sometimes even baby-sitters. Be aware who those baby-sitters are, and make sure our shul is responsible about the set-up; two 13 year olds in a room with 40 children is not going to provide adequate, responsible supervision. Make sure your baby-sitters are encouraged to come upstairs and get parents right away if they have any concerns.
*If kids are going to be playing outside, make sure they know where they can and cannot play, and find out who they are playing with. A buddy system might be a great help, either with siblings or friends. It’s always good to have an occasional scheduled check in; your child shouldn’t be outside playing for hours at a time without your being in contact with them.
* Remind your children that if they want to go to a friend’s house, or if they were at a friend’s house and want to move to another friend’s house- they must come let you know! It’s important to know who the supervising adult is in each friend’s house that your child plays at. Always check in with your child, in a natural and non alarming way, when they get home from playdates.
* As always, your child should be reminded that there should never be secrets kept from parents. If anyone asks your child to come with them somewhere, (even if it’s someone he/she knows well) without telling you, the answer should be No!
* All that davening time means lots of quiet times for kids, and good behavior during quiet time deserves a special treat. Remind your children that they should never take treats or prizes from anyone without getting your permission first, ESPECIALLY if that treat or prize is accompanied with any kind of request or threat.
Succos and Simchas Torah
* Succos is a really fun time for kids and adults alike, and it often means lots of visiting family and friends! It’s important to keep in mind that 90% of abuse occurs at the hands of someone well known to the child, which makes it so important to stay educated and proactive while avoiding unnecessary panic or anxiety (which is detrimental to kids). Whether you’re away visiting others, or having lots of guests, safety rules are a must!
*Sometimes, as excited as we are about seeing friends and relatives, it’s easy to forget that our usual personal boundaries still apply. Remind your friends and relatives that if your child wants to skip the hugs and kisses this time, that should be their choice. Even the most loving and well-meaning family can confuse this message and make a child uncomfortable by forcing them to give hugs and kisses.
* Put some thought into the sleeping arrangements for your children. Consider whether putting guests to sleep in your children’s room with them is a good idea, or if perhaps moving kids around so guests can sleep in their own room is a better option. Children should never, ever be left to sleep or play in a room with a locked door.
* For many families, Succos means group slumber parties in the Succah, which is a fun and long anticipated treat for many children. It’s important for parents to keep safety in mind though, especially when you are hosting other adolescent or adult guests who will be sleeping there as well.
* As always, pay attention to adults or older teens who are paying extra special attention to your kids. There are plenty of great, healthy adults who enjoy spending lots of time with children, but in general, adults and children should want to be spending time with people their own age. Trust your gut feelings, and your children’s instincts- if they don’t want to spend time with a certain relative or friend, don’t force them. Give them a chance to discuss it with you in a relaxed, non-pressured environment.
* While there has been a lot of focus in many shuls in the past few years on putting a limit on alcohol consumption during Simchas Torah, it still remains a widespread and common practice. Children need to know that if anyone tries to offer them alcohol, they need to come tell you immediately. It is both illegal and dangerous for minors to consume alcohol. As well, it’s important to remember that children are very small people, and the effects of even a small amount of alcohol can be magnified significantly. A child under the influence of alcohol is in an unnaturally uninhibited state, and has decreased ability to resist. Combined with impaired memory faculties, a who has been drinking is at high risk of being abused and hurt.
*Again, while treats and sweets are an important part of Simchas Torah for kids, your children should be reminded that accepting treats should only be done with your permission.
The staff and volunteers of Jewish Community Watch wish you and your children a happy, healthy, sweet, and safe new year!
Check out these important articles on our site: