As summer approaches, school doors open and kids of all ages celebrate sweet freedom. Parents, however, have an extra worry: eight hours of time each day when children are vulnerable and can be unprotected. Almost by definition, children lack skills to recognize danger, avoid harmful situations, and protect themselves. As a parent, you can and should teach your children that they can be assertive in order to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation. Children of every age, gender, and race are vulnerable to child abduction, and families need to discuss safety at an early age.
Here are some tips parents can use to help kids protect themselves if faced with a dangerous situation:
Ã?Â· Learn how the bad guy thinks. Find out what the common scams are and tell your kids. The Internet and books are good sources of information. Of course, the Internet can hold dangers of its own. Parents should carefully monitor their kids’ Internet use and learn the warning signs of online predators.
Ã?Â· Give kids “do’s” instead of “don’ts”. For example, if a stranger knocks on the door, give them things to do: Call a parent or trusted neighbor before opening the door. If a stranger calls on the phone, have a script ready-make sure kids never tell a stranger that they are home alone. Post these instructions near the door and the phone. Kids should not be expected to remember what to do after one conversation; leave them protective tools that are accessible and easy.
If someone in a car approaches your child and asks for directions or help finding a lost dog, your children should know what to say and do. In addition to knowing how to get to the playground and back home, make sure your kids know safe places along the route where they can go for help if they need to. If your child is old enough, you might let them take a cell phone with them to call for help if they need it.
Ã?Â· Make safety a game. Start early and give lots of praise. Younger kids enjoy acting out scenarios and instructions, and this play will help your child remember what to do in a stressful situation. Be sure to act out what to do in case of a fire, or a home break-in, or a car accident. It’s much better to talk about these things in quiet moments than to wish you had after an emergency happens.
Ã?Â· Teach kids to fight back if grabbed and roll under something (a parked car, for example) instead of running away. Parents tell their kids how to be well behaved every day; you have to tell them when and how to break these behavior rules, which are deeply ingrained in children. Let them know when they should scream; how to get attention from other grown-ups and let them know they need help; and when to throw good manners out the window and get help for themselves. Reinforce the rules of good manners for everyday situations, but let them know that, if they act out during an emergency, they won’t get in trouble for their behavior.
Every parent’s worst nightmare is his or her child being taken by a stranger-what is called ‘non-family abductions’. Abductions in this category involve forcibly moving or detaining the child for a relatively short period of time, usually in connection with another crime. Nationally, 99% of these children are returned home. This fear should not keep you from letting your kids enjoy their summer or weekends, but you should be alert: over 50% of the children kidnapped in non-family abductions were taken from the street, in a vehicle, or from a park or wooded area, according to the Lafayette, Louisiana Woman’s Foundation. .
To receive more information, you can order the “Stay Safe-Around People You Don’t Know Well” and “About After-School Safety” booklets for ages 6 – 9 from the Lafayette’s Woman’s Foundation at (337) 988-1816.