Fear is in the air again. It happens every time a new report of a child abduction reaches our eyes or ears. Parents in all corners of the world are wondering– what can I do to keep my children safe at a time in history where child abduction seems like a regular occurrence?
What do I say to my child? How can I make him recognize danger? What words will get through to her? What exactly do I say when I sit him down for this important conversation?
Yes, what you say to your children about this important issue is critical. What you talk to your children about and how you talk to them are essential steps in preparing them to stay firmly on the path of safety. Below you will find valuable suggestions for how and when to communicate with your children to ensure you meet your most important parenting responsibility–keeping your children safe.
1. Do not view the role of helping your child learn about the dangers of being lost, taken, or abused as a one-time occurrence. A thorough initial discussion is just that–an initial discussion. This topic will need to be revisited by you and your children many times. Look for opportunities to examine this topic from different perspectives.
2. Make sure your children know that if they are lost or taken you will look for them forever and search until they are found. Reassure them frequently of your love and of your desire to have them in your life. Let them know that you love them no matter what they say or do and that you will always be there for them and work to keep them safe and healthy.
3. Remind your children that the world is a place where most people love children and helpers are everywhere. When you are at the mall or grocery store, point out the people who are likely to help: a woman at the door, a grandmother, a person at the information center. Statistics indicate that women are more likely to take a child who needs help to the appropriate person. A man will often point the child in the right direction but let them navigate the route on their own.
4. Do not use the “never talk to strangers” slogan. If your child is lost at an amusement park or mall, everyone around them could be a stranger. If they can’t talk to strangers, who do they turn to? Instead, teach your children how to recognize the people who are most likely to help. That person just might be a stranger.
5. When you see a situation that is potentially unsafe, point it out to your children. Talk about what is unsafe about it and what could be done to make it safe. Tell them why you parked under the light in the parking lot as night approached. Explain why you moved away from the curb as you walked along the sidewalk on a busy or icy street. Talk about why it is not safe to help someone find their lost dog or cat.
6. Do not teach your child that please is the magic word. “Say the magic word and I’ll give you more ice cream” some parents tell their children. Guess what? Child abductors use the magic word, too. They can be extremely polite until they achieve their prime objective.
7. Teach your child the danger signal of people bearing gifts. Ice cream, candy and video games are good bribes. Help your child see them as warning signs.
8. Let your children know that there is a time to be polite to an adult and a time not to be polite. Talk about how to fight back by kicking, scratching and biting. Teach them to make themselves big by holding onto something else if someone tries to take them. Tell them that it is okay to scream, “This is not my daddy! Help!” when an adult grabs them. Practice this strategy by role-playing it with your children.
9. Teach your children to give it the “tummy test.” If it feels unsafe or scary in their tummy, teach them to run. Logic is not important here. Intuition and inner knowing is. Help your children develop that wise part within. Teach them to trust it.
10. Teach your child to be assertive. If an adult is invading their space or saying something that is bringing up uncomfortable feelings, teach your children to speak up. Give them the words to use. “Leave me alone” or “Stay away from me” work well in these situations.
11. Create a code word to be used anytime you have asked someone other than immediate family to pick up or transport your children. There may be times when you cannot get to school, baseball practice, or the church function. If the person who tells your child he or she is there to pick them up doesn’t know the code word, teach your child to immediately tell another adult whom they trust.
12. Use your words to paint a picture of hope rather than fear. We want our children to see that safety exists all around them. When children see the world as safe instead of scary, they are better able to sense an unsafe situation when one arises. If everything is seen as scary, rotten, or hurtful, then the next scary incident that comes along is just like all the others and seems normal.
Your number-one job as a parent is to keep your children safe and healthy. That involves teaching them to protect themselves from the potential dangers that exist in our world. Use the suggestions above to arm your children with strategies that can help them take care of themselves.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE
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