Parents want to protect their children at all times, but they cannot be with them every minute of every day
Children need to learn how to stay safe, be smart, and protect themselves from strangers and abduction when on their own, at school, at play, and even at home. Parents can teach children what to do when in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation. day.
The following tips may help parents and children feel safer:
1. Parents should discuss the issues of strangers and their associated danger with a calm tone of voice; children will be better able to listen and learn because they will be more receptive. Parents must monitor their own fear and be careful not to alarm their children.
2. Consider the child's age.
•3-5 year old children are curious and may be naturally trusting. They also easily respond to attempts by adults to be kind or supportive. Toddlers and pre-schoolers do not grasp the short or long-term consequences of potentially dangerous situations.
•6-9 year old school children are more capable of understanding right from wrong. They are able to remember information and put it into practice but may get overwhelmed in a difficult situation.
•10-13 year old children may over-estimate their ability to handle a bad situation. They may also feel they should not be scared and be nonchalant in their attitude to risk.
3. Deliver information in a way appropriate to their age. Younger children will benefit from role play and repeated conversations. Parents of older children can discuss current events or real situations to educate them about danger.
4. Be aware of specific ploys used by strangers. Teach children not to help strangers look for lost puppies, accept gifts or sweets, or get in a car with someone they do not know …. or even someone they do know, if the journey is not planned. Avoid highly visible name-tags on things like schoolbags and lunch boxes.
5. 'Body Secrets' are not allowed. In cases of abuse, a child is often told not to tell anyone about what happened. Make sure your child knows there should never be any 'body secrets' between you.
6. Find a mum or dad with kids to help. In times of trouble a police officer may not be around, so a parent with kids is a safe bet.
7. Use: the following :
•Talk: Have a discussion with your children about safety and strangers. It can be useful to find out how a child defines a "stranger". Parents are often surprised to hear that only ugly creatures in story books are considered dangerous.
•Ask: After talking to children, it is important to ask them what they heard. This allows parents to correct misinformation and determine what needs to be reviewed or discussed differently.
•Show: It can be helpful for parents to practice with children what they have learnt. This can mean going to a shopping centre and having your child ask for help from a shop assistant, or walking through the neighbourhood and watch as your child goes to a neighbour’s house.
•Know: Make sure children know who, when, where and how to get help. For example, they should know their name, address, and phone number; how to phone the police, dial 999 or 112 (Europe) or 911 (US and Canada); who will pick them up from school each day and what after school activities are planned.
8. Monitor the media; especially when child abductions and murders are in the news, parents should be aware of what their children are watching or hearing. Help them separate out fact from fantasy. Parents should be sensitive to any changes in their children's behaviour, especially sleeping problems and nightmares, and if necessary, seek additional guidance.
See the Childalert A-Z of Parenting
- Teaching Children to think for themselves
- Safe Environment
- Raising Girls
In reality abduction is very rare, but children do go missing - in shopping centres, on holiday and from home - usual they are only gone for a few minutes as their bearings and your location become familiar again. On occasion children go missing because of parental disputes, and most missing children are with someone they know - what ever the reason here are some simple important steps you could take - in preparation and practise.
• It is a good idea to have a file of your children’s identity - information such as date of birth, and birth certificate, any distinguishing marks, social security number, physical description and an up-to-date photo, school information, places you/they like to frequent, places your child likes to hang out – eating and or play areas, their friends, and adults they admire or have talked about recently.
• If you fear your child is missing take these steps
- Call the police immediately - the first hour is critical
- Remember what they are wearing
- Where they have been or talked about going
- Who they are with - their friends
- What were their movements over the last 48 hours
- Did they mention any problems, anxieties - about themselves or their friends?
- Call their mobile phone - even if they do not answer, its location can be traced by the police and phone company
- Check your child’s recent Internet links
- Contact friends, school, hospital, youth club etc
- Avoid self criticism and analysis - focus on finding your child
NEVER GIVE UP HOPE!