A couple of weeks ago the kids and I were at the craft store shopping for supplies. Let me tell you, shopping along in any store with 3 small children is no easy feat. At one point we finished looking in one aisle and turned to go to the next. I turn around and the 2 kids not in the cart are no longer behind me. I go back to the previous aisle to tell them to scoot their booties and they’re NOT THERE! Immediately a feeling of panic washes through me and I start calling their names. Thankfully, they immediately come around the corner but, as any parent that has also and we again went over the rules for the store. It inspired me to make sure that you have the tools to keep your child safe as well and not only in the store. That is why I’m sharing these tips to protect your children from the new stranger danger.
1. Talk Early and Often
The first way to help protect your kids is to talk to them early and often. Don’t talk only about how to prevent things like abduction. Also talk with your child about what to do in the event that someone grabs them. If you need tips for what to tell your child:
- Scream, yell, and make a huge scene. There are no rules in such an event.
- Make sure your child knows to yell “Fire!” instead of “Help!” People are more likely to respond to the former instead of the latter.
- Tell your child to immediately drop all of his or her weight. This makes it harder for the abductor to take your child which increases the likelihood that they will give up.
When I worked in retail, we were trained on child abductions and how to prevent them. Speed and concealment are the key factors of abduction. Many kids’ appearances are changed by quickly cutting their hair and/or clothing in the bathroom before walking them right out the door. The more difficult your child makes it on his or her attacker, the higher the chances that the abductor will move on to an easier target.
2. It Is Not About Hiding Names
When we were growing up we were warned against wearing our name on our clothing and monograms quickly went out of style. In this day and age it is really impossible to completely hide your child’s name from someone who really wants it. It can be as simple as following you around the store and listening for you to say it. In addition to that, your children get bus tags at school, names and contact information are put on team rosters, and more. Because this information is so easy to get in the digital era, it is of growing importance to teach your child how to stay safe instead of trying to conceal his or her name.
3. Have Clear Rules
Protecting your kids from strangers is sometimes easier than protecting them from people they know. Make sure that you have clear rules in place and go over them often with your child. These rules should include:
- You have a boundary radius in public places such as your child not being able to go past the end of the cart in the grocery store.
- You child knows never to go with anyone unless it is previously discussed with you, period.
- Have hourly check-ins when your child is playing with friends or outside. If your child is old enough to have a phone, tell them to text you each hour. Make sure he or she knows not to tell anyone about this policy.
- Discuss the uniforms of workers and law enforcement when visiting a busy area or store.
4. Code Word Plan
This one is important because it helps protect your children from all predators. The concept is simple. Create a code word with your child and help them memorize it. They then do not leave school, daycare, the bus stop, or anywhere else with someone who does not know the code word. This rules needs to apply to friends, family, and strangers. Also, make sure that your child knows to never tell anyone the code word. If you want someone to know it then you will tell them. This helps protect your child from unknown threats that may also be within your social circle.
You never want to believe that something like being abducted could happen to your child. You tell yourself things like, “That only happens to other people” or “We don’t see that stuff in our neighborhood”. The harsh reality is that it can happen to anyone, anywhere. Following the steps above will keep your child safer and that is all any parent wants. You can also find out how to make this DIY Emergency Lanyard to keep your child safe on vacations. It is always better to educate before it is too late.