As a parent, I know there are many fears you may have about your child’s safety… especially now during this outbreak of the coronavirus when people are frightened, confused, and under unusual distress. This is the time to be especially cognizant of where your children are, so keep them in and keep them close. A recent study I found reports that approximately 300 children are abducted each year. We all want to keep our children safe, and no matter how young your children are, it’s always a good idea to help teach them age-appropriate safety skills.
Open Communication is Key
If you are a parent, the most important thing you can do is to communicate openly with your child at home. Have a home atmosphere in which your kids can let you know what is going on in their life. A very important point is to re-learn old concepts of adult/child interaction. Teach your child his rights. He has the right to say “no.” He should know there are different rules for different situations; he doesn’t have to always be polite. Politeness can translate into doing what the potential abductor says.
More Than Just “Stranger Danger”
Abductors don’t usually fit the stereotypical profile of a scary, creepy stranger or dirty old man. Motives are often sexual and most are not true strangers. They target children and seek their confidence by developing a casual relationship with them. Family abductors make up the majority of kidnap offenders, as in a custody battle.
Basic safety reminders for parents
Here are some basic safety reminders for you and your child to keep in mind at all times.
1. Know where your child is and who he is with at all times.
2. Pay attention to changes in your child’s behavior.
3. Never leave your child alone in a public place, car, or stroller.
4. Never ask a stranger to hold your baby, even for an instant.
5. Don’t label your child’s lunch box or clothing.
6. Don’t let your child go out alone. Teach him to remember to use the buddy system.
7. Teach your child his telephone number, and how to contact you and a close friend.
8. Take a lot of photos of your child and keep them current.
9. Keep up-to-date dental and medical records.
10. Create a secret password between you and your child, so that he knows never to open the door to someone who doesn’t know the password, and never to go with someone who doesn’t know the password.
11. An older child should be encouraged to use his critical thinking and intuition, and to anticipate, for example, slow-driving cars in front of a neighborhood or playground.
Remember, above all else, safety first. Prevention is the key. Develop a family plan of action for emergency and crisis situation. Practice and rehearse them with your child through role modeling and role-playing. Emphasize your child’s right of privacy and ownership, and that sexual advances from adults are wrong and against the law.
When your child is invested and informed, he is more likely to remember and take action if someone tries to abduct him. Remember: you have to empower your child to help keep him safe.