Child abduction is one of the most terrifying things any parent can imagine (it’s almost certainly one of the top fears of new moms), and yet many parents are still not sure about the best ways to help their children stay safe. What can you teach your child to minimize the chances that they will be victims of a child-snatching?
Teaching Children to Be Careful
One of the most common warnings that parents give their children is never to talk to strangers. Parents often use the phrase “stranger danger” to remind them. But increasingly, experts are turning away from the term “stranger danger” because they say it is misleading and not especially well understood by kids. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, children often think that a “bad” stranger is one who looks ugly or acts mean (and a child may not fear someone who looks “nice”), and children usually believe that once they have talked to a person once or twice, that person is no longer a stranger.
Unfortunately, the children who are abducted are most likely to be taken by someone they know or are familiar with. And a person who is intent on abducting a child will probably find some way to be nice to the child and earn their trust in order to get them to go along – in other words, make themselves not seem like a stranger.
Additionally, warning of “stranger danger” could also scare off a child from turning to people who may help him: policemen, firemen, security officers, store managers, etc. In fact, there has been at least one case where a missing child did not respond to his rescuers because he was taught “not to talk to strangers.”
The best way to help your child is to teach him or her some basics about how to stay safe: Never go outside or over to someone’s house or in their car without checking with a parent first, do not go out alone, and tell a parent or other trusted grownup if you feel threatened. Children should learn their full name, address, and phone number at an early age. They should also know that safety is more important than manners if a person they don’t know is trying to talk to them or get them to go somewhere. They need to have the confidence to be able to say “No!” “Go away!” or simply to call for help. You should also teach your children how to react if they are confronted with a scary situation.
Here Are Some Good Lessons to Have Them Learn:
- If they are lost, they should stay where they are (if they wander, it will be harder to find them).
- If they need help, they should talk to an adult with a nametag or uniform (police or security officer, etc.).
- If they are alone and feeling like they are in danger, teach them to make noise (yelling, blowing a whistle, etc.) so that someone who can help will notice them.
Additionally, parents whose children are starting to use the computer need to be vigilant about safety. When your children are on the computer, you should work alongside them, making computer time a family activity (in a common room like the family room), and install appropriate blocking and filters on the computer your child will use.
We can’t keep our children in a bubble, and as they grow older, they will continue to test the boundaries we set for them. But one of the best things we can do is to teach them some important strategies for dealing with scary situations. When we give them the tools and the confidence to deal with just about any encounter, we can be more confident that they will do the right thing to stay safe.