DUBAI: The death of several children in a series of accidents in the UAE in recent days has raised serious concerns over the role of parents in ensuring their safety.
Despite the police constantly reminding parents to stay alert, a number of children have died after falling from building windows and balconies, drowning in pools, being suffocated in locked up cars, or even suffering burns due to contact with stored chemicals (see timeline).
As the supervisory role of parents comes under scrutiny, experts said a combination of factors contribute to possible lapses in vigilance, the stringent laws protecting child safety notwithstanding.
Devika Mankani, psychologist at the Hundred Wellness Centre in Dubai, said, “Parenting or child-rearing entails multiple levels and domains of skills including relationships, communication, social skills, practical skills and the ability to perceive a child’s needs.”
She said while it is generally accepted that there is no such thing as the perfect parent, parents usually provide their children with good care and a loving environment.
However, she said lapses in vigilance can result from many factors.
“Distraction is probably the most common and dangerous. Technology and ‘multitasking’ are the main sources of distraction. A parent’s emotional state also plays a role in determining the level of care and supervision parents give their children. So do personal experiences. Also, social support, or the lack of it, can contribute to how much help parents have when they are caring for their children,” said Mankani.
There are other factors too. For instance, not everyone may be used to living in a multi-storeyed apartment or have easy access to a swimming pool. So a new habitat, culture or environment can also pose challenges.
“Yes, there is definitely a learning curve when you make a drastic shift in your environment or lifestyle, but the risk of complacency when you have settled in is just as concerning.”
Things can also get difficult when families have a large number of children. “The elements of provision and supervision can become diluted to the point where the risk of neglect and accidents is very high. This can include emotional neglect, physical, sexual or medical,” said Mankani.
But the law is unequivocal when it comes to child safety.
Reda Hegazy, Senior Legal Advisor and Arbitrator at Al Suwaidi & Company, said Federal Law No. 3/2016 concerning the rights of children under 18 years of age is very specific in identifying the kind of neglect and the action that can be taken against erring parents and caregivers.
For instance, he said: “Article 34 says it is prohibited to expose the mental, psychological, physical or moral safety of a child to danger when unnecessarily abandoned, kept at a place or a care institution, rejected or denied medical treatment and attention by his caregiver. Article 35 expressly prohibits the caregiver or custodian to expose the child to neglect, leaving him/her without supervision or follow-up. The provision directly obligates the caregiver or custodian to take care of the child, pay attention, keep him/her safe and protected specially at home, around pools and public places.”
Similarly Article 58 provides for protection of children against traffic accidents whereby it prohibits children under 10 years old to be in the front seats of any type of vehicle. It has also specified controls concerning the use of bicycles by children.”
So what happens if there is a violation?
Hegazy said Article 60 stipulates a punishment of imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh5,000 for whoever infringes the provisions of Article 35 or other articles of the Wadeema Law. Articles 35 and 60 also apply to nannies, he said, adding that Wadeema’s Law provides for a procedure for reporting child abuse cases to the child protection unit.
Danger of the comfort zone
According to Mankani, parental neglect is often unintentional or accidental, but that doesn’t change the impact it can have on a child’s life. “Caregivers can become complacent when they are following the same routine on a daily basis. There is a dichotomy in psychology that is used to explain a phenomenon of mastery vs complacency where the more you do something, the better you get versus complacency where you can become mindless about something the more you do it, which can often give rise to dangerous situations. Complacency can set in when things are going smoothly, it’s the danger of the comfort zone.”
Dos and don’ts for parents
• Know yourself, work towards identifying your emotional triggers that can influence your mood and attention. Your ability to stay centered will influence your ability to parent.
• Commit to reaching out to find support when you need it. It’s a basic right for you and your child.
• Identify your strengths and weaknesses. This helps bring areas of development into your consciousness so that you can address it.
• Educate yourself constantly by reading and talking about the challenges parents face when it comes to finding a balance between being an individual and a parent.
• Remember you are not your past. You have the power to create a parenting identity that reflects your beliefs but you have to invest in it.
June 6, 2019: Two Emirati twin boys aged two and a half drown in a neighbour’s swimming pool in Ras Al Khaimah
June 1: An eight-month-old boy suffocates to death after inhaling smoke when their house caught fire in Baniyas East, Abu Dhabi.
May 29: A five-year-old boy dies after getting trapped inside a hot car in Al Ain.
March 27: A 14-year-old boy dies after falling from the 15th floor of a tower in Sharjah.
February 24: An 18-month-old boy drowns in a villa swimming pool in Ras Al Khaimah.
December 16, 2018: A three-year-old Emirati boy drowns in a swimming pool in a villa in Ras Al Khaimah.
December 13, 2018: A four-year-old child dies in a freak washing machine accident in Ajman when he climbed inside a front-loading model and inadvertently triggered an automatic wash cycle.
December 7, 2018: A seven-year-old Arab girl dies after falling from the fifth floor of a building in Al Musalla, Sharjah.
Compiled by Gulf News Archives
VOX POP: HOW THESE MUMS KEEP THEIR KIDS SAFE
By Mohammad Bassam, Intern
Maha Al Rawady, Egyptian mum of two, aged three and two
“The best way to take care of your kids is to put them in a safe nursery with cameras with a good community, teachers and care takers. After their nursery hours, I leave them with my brother. If the kids are already asleep for the night, then I might leave them with th nanny if I have to go out.”
Hilda Al Halabi, Syrian, mum of a two-and-half-year-old girl
“I keep her at the nursery. I think it is the most productive place for my daughter to spend her day. I don’t leave her with a nanny, as she wouldn’t be learning anything and I don’t trust a nanny like I trust a nursery. Nursery employees are better prepared to take care of kids. If I have to go out for a long period of time, I wait till my husband comes back home from work, and then I go out.”
Genelou Rosario, Filipina, mum of a one-year-old daughter
“When I am at work, I leave my daughter with my husband. If my husband has work, I take her to the nursery. If I have to go out while my husband is at work and the nursery is done for the day, then I take my daughter along with me. I never leave her alone.”
Ahlam Bassam, Lebanese, mum of girl, 1.5 years
“My daughter is registered in the nursery that I work at, so I can keep an eye on her all the time. I also have an online access camera so I can see her when I want. I don’t keep her with a nanny. If I absolutely have to leave her, I keep her with one of my older daughters. But next year, when my daughters go off to university, I can keep her with one of my friends that I trust. But I never leave her with a nanny,”