Those were the words my four year old child screamed as someone tried to take him away. Fortunately though, this was just a drill. The attempted child abduction was actually done by his Sensei. They speak frequently about Stranger Danger at our dojo, teaching them what to look out for and giving them safety rules to live by.
Understandably, Stranger Danger is a topic we wish we did not have to discuss with our kids. We do not want our children to grow up living in fear. Perhaps we also think we live in an area where this would never happen to us, where there is no danger in a stranger. Besides, teaching our children to never talk with strangers is in direct conflict with teaching them to be polite and kind to others, is it not?
On the other hand, we are hearing more about attempted child abductions and people trying to lure children into their vehicles. Due to cell phones and social media we are able to report these incidents to authorities and spread the word to friends and neighbors more immediately and effectively than ever before.
Recently a friend asked how to speak with your child about Stranger Danger at different ages so I was relating the story of what my son had been taught at the dojo. All of these techniques can be practiced at home and can be taught to children of any age. Here is what is recommended to teach children:
- Get to the ground. Put all your weight on the floor.
- Don’t stop moving. Kick your legs. Flail your arms. Make it as difficult as possible for someone to grab and keep hold of you. Do not give up or give in. Keep on kicking.
- Scream as loud as you can, “Help! This is not my parent!” Scream it over and over again as loudly as possible. Use your voice to draw attention to yourself.
- If you break free from the potential abductor, RUN.
The more difficult it is for someone to take your child, the more likely it is that they will give up. The more a child draws attention to him or herself, the more likely it is that someone will step in to help. How did you feel when you read the first sentence of this post? In all likelihood, you were uncomfortable. Just imagine how you would feel if you heard a child screaming those words in a public setting.
Talk to your children about the potential lures that someone might use to draw them closer, both the old school more common lures as well as other scenarios. Abductors do not always look scary. Teach your children that adults do not ever need directions from kids, they should never take candy from strangers and that adults can find their own lost pets. Yet a potential abductor might be just as likely to try to lure with candy and a lost puppy as asking for help using an app on their new phone.
Kids should also understand that sometimes strangers try to lure children by pretending to be someone else, such as a police officer, firefighter or other official. Teach them that officers will be in a fully marked squad car or truck and in full uniform. Additionally, police officers, firefighters and the like usually do not need to speak to children without a parent or teacher present.
Another concept that we have set up with our kids is a code word. This works very well for younger kids. If you have an emergency and need a friend or family member to pick up your child unexpectedly, your friend must know the code word in order for your child to go with him or her. If your friend does not know the code word, your child will know not to get in the car. This works especially well for younger children to keep them at ease. Also, as your children get older they will know your friends better and know who you would contact in the case of an emergency. Make the code word something your children can easily remember but one that would be difficult for a stranger to guess.
Lastly, consider having a family meeting spot in case you and your children should ever get split up in a public place. As your children get older and want to set out on their own, the concept of a family meeting place will have become routine to them.
As your kids start spending time online, you will also want to make sure you have spoken to them about Internet safety. For starters, they should never give anyone besides you their passwords, make passwords difficult for classmates to figure out, use caution when posting photos and never, ever tell anyone their age online. There is a great guideline of helpful tips at http://onguardonline.gov/topics/protect-kids-online.
We live in a world where we need to teach our children about Stranger Danger and we need to begin when our children are young. Do you have any other tips or tricks that you have used to talk with your children about Stranger Danger? If so, please share them with us in the comments below.