Mothers & Babies Irish Independent

 

In Red Ribbons, Phillips, herself a mother of three and grandmother of one, details the worst fears of any parent. "I didn't set out to write the book to scare people but I wanted to give a good emotional insight into something like this. It's almost a subject we don't talk about," she says.

"When I was growing up, we played on the street. As time is going on, there's less of that happening. To an extent, our children are missing that interaction with the street. That can be a good thing in some ways but it can also be a bad thing, especially when they're taking that leap to meet friends."

In the course of her writing Phillips did a lot of research, working with detectives in Rathfarnham and Tallaght garda stations in Dublin. She says she discovered the importance of parents putting certain safeguards in place. "For example, if a child, elderly person or someone with a disability goes missing, straight away they are assigned to category one, which is high risk," says Phillips. "These are grouping that are more susceptible to something going wrong."

Paperback

PLANNING AHEAD

Phillips acknowledges that child abduction isn't something that happens every day, but says it is important that parents and children plan for the unforeseen. "Sit down with your children and discuss a plan. Know all the mobile and landline numbers of their friends, and know where they are going to be and what time they're due back," she says. "When a child or a young adult goes missing, every second counts, especially those moments directly afterwards. The closer you are to pinpointing that moment, the better. You don't want a situation whereby you're ringing Mary to find out Jane's mobile number. You need to have those things in place. When you're frantic, it's not the time to be looking for all those pieces of information."

Phillips says it's important to let children know that the 'boogie man' may not look dangerous. "People who do bad things don't display clues. They can be charming, inoffensive, friendly, helpful, and very capable of manipulation. They tend to plan or have thought about their actions for a protracted period beforehand, and will actively endeavour to gain the trust of another, to manipulate and coerce."

She says communication with your child is key to ensuring their safety."Talk openly and honestly with your son or daughter about the very thing you want them to avoid, becauses sometimes facing our fear can be the best way of avoiding it."

Red Ribbons is now available in paperback at bookstores nationwide, as well as Tesco and Dunnes Stores. Phillips' second novel, The Doll's House, is due for release in August.

 

REDUCING THE RISK

Phillips has the following tips on keeping your children safe.

  • Keep in touch with your child even if you think you know where they are.
  • Know the times they are due back.
  • Know who they are with.
  • Ensure you have a list of phone numbers of each of their friends and their friends' parents.
  • Have their friends over often or engage with them in their external activities.
  • Watch out for tell-tale signs. If your child's behaviour changes, there is usually a reason. Finding out why can make all the difference.
  • A mobile phone could be one of the most valuable forms of protection your child can have.
  • Despite giving you the impression that they think you know nothing, they do listen to what you say - it is vital to recognise and acknowledge this.