Monday, July 30, 2018

Sleepovers, Playdates and Codewords

Reaching out to rescue one another under ANY condition is an eternal measure of love.
-Ronald A. Rasband

There is something called “The Law of Unintended Consequences”.

This concept was popularized in the 20th century by sociologist Robert K. Merton. Merton stated that actions of people always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

A modern example of this is computer passwords. In an effort to increase security, many sites require complex passwords that need to be changed often. However, people have a hard time remembering all these passwords. They will write their passwords on a post-it note and put it on their desk or monitor, which lessens security.

The reason why I bring this up is because my articles also have unintended consequences.

For me, one of the unintended consequence is that my parents read about events in my life that I have been hiding from them all these years, while suggesting to my audience that they parent differently than my parents did. It can make for some awkward family moments.

Lucky for me I have loving and supportive parents.

Here is another one of the aforementioned stories:

When I was 11 years old I was invited to sleepover at a friend’s home. I played with him in his home for a bit, then I went with his family to visit another family. In the car ride to this other family, my friend’s father was extremely inappropriate. He was teaching us the slang racist terms for different minorities. He did so over his wife’s constant objections.

When we finally arrived at this other family’s home, people whom I did not know, there was a sudden argument between my friend’s father and his mother. Things got very heated, and my friend’s younger brother got injured during this episode. The father ended up leaving in anger, abandoning his family and myself at their host’s home.

I felt trapped.
I felt that I shouldn’t be there.

Hours later we returned to my friend’s home, but the tension was still very much in the air. I stayed the night and the next day, until I was picked up by my mother. She picked me up at the time we had agreed upon prior.

I strongly urge all parents, whenever your child is going somewhere, remind them that you are willing to come get them if a situation arises and they don’t feel safe (whether it be physically or emotionally) where they are.

Also, make sure you have a codeword with your child. He or she might not be comfortable (or might not be in a position) where they can outwardly say “Mom, please get me, I don’t feel safe here”. Therefore, set up a codeword (keep it consistent, don’t change it every time). For example, if the codeword is strawberry, the child can say such things as “Mom, remember how much I like strawberry” or “I forgot to tell you that I ate the last strawberry yogurt yesterday”.

As with everything else child safety related, this is not something that can be said just once or twice to the child. Every single time the child goes to spend time somewhere else (and the child can’t make their own way home) let the child know that they can call and get brought home quickly, should the need arise. This needs to be mentioned every time so that it is in the forefront of the child’s mind whenever they go out.

In all honesty, I am not sure that I would have even made this call had I been told this back when I was 11. I felt extremely bad for my friend and leaving would have made a difficult situation much harder for him. Nevertheless, kids need to know that they always have this option.

There are many different scenarios that might occur that would lead to a child justifiably calling the parent and asking to be taken home. Listen to your child, trust your child, be there for your child. 

Most importantly, make sure your child knows and feels that you are there for them.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

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