x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Parents in the UAE must keep tabs on children

An alarming number of parents in the UAE do not seem to understand their responsibilities. Sustained public-information campaigns can reverse this situation.

For most of us, the relationship between parent and child is the most important one we'll ever have. Children in healthy households receive love, support, care and sound preparation for life; later, as parents, they pass on what they have learnt.

Unfortunately, an alarming number of parents forget their responsibilities. Everyone makes mistakes, but in childcare, especially with young children, some mistakes can be catastrophic and unacceptable.

An incident on Monday in Sharjah, reported by The National yesterday, is a good example. A three-year-old child was left alone in a car for about two hours with its engine running, as his parents went shopping in a mall. After considerable confusion about where the car had been left, and a police search, the boy was found unharmed.

But in many other cases, young children are not so lucky. Too often, news media report on fatal accidents involving children left in hot cars, accidents that could have been avoided.

These summer tragedies are not the only examples of parental negligence. The fact is that leaving a three-year-old unattended, in a car or in a flat or anywhere else, is a recipe for disaster - and a lifetime of parental remorse. Every day children, some of them very young, are left unattended for long or short periods of time. Too often this results in fatal falls from balconies, deadly experimenting with medicines or household chemicals, or other tragedies.

The UAE's new child protection law, Wadeema's Law, says bluntly that leaving a young child unattended is illegal; anyone who does so is in danger of facing criminal charges.

The law is expected to prevent many tragedies but will do so only if the authorities step up their efforts to spread awareness among parents across the country of the simple fact that there is no safe amount of time to leave a toddler alone, anywhere.

Sustained public-information campaigns, in many languages, are ultimately the only way to prevent such disasters. Programmes that promote positive and responsive parent-child relationships must be a central part of prevention and intervention strategies.