The best chance a child has against the tens of thousands of molesters and abductors walking the streets of this country is your willingness, as a parent, to sit down and prepare them.
Obviously, this isn’t an easy subject to discuss with a child. But if you take time and approach it as safety rules, like a fire drill, it doesn’t have to be frightening at all.
This may look like a lot of work, but it’s not. It might be the most important thing you ever do with your child.
Take the time to do it right. Never assume that your child will not be abducted, abused or exploited.
- Have your children fingerprinted.
- Always maintain a current photograph of your child(ren), including current height and weight.
- Obtain a passport for your children. Once obtained, it is hard for someone else to obtain another one.
- Know who your child’s friends are, their parents, addresses and phone numbers.
- Never leave your child unattended (i.e. shopping malls, a car, home, etc.)
- Teach your children how to use 911 and 0.
- Make sure your children know their full names (and yours), phone number and area code and address including city and state. Make a game of teaching them to call home long distance.
- If you are separated or divorced, let your children’s administrators know about visitation rights. For example, tell them whether your ex-spouse is allowed to pick up the child(ren).
- Really listen to anything and everything your child tells you.
- Children should know that a stranger is any adult they don’t know well. Even someone they see every day, like a neighbor or bus driver, can be a stranger. This doesn’t mean strangers are bad. It just means a child shouldn’t be alone with them.
- Discuss scenarios with your children. Teach them what to do if they get lost.
- Abductors use many lures to attract children: They may ask for help, such as asking for directions or finding a lost pet. Children want to help, but teach your children that adults should ask other adults for help. They shouldn’t ask children.
If a stranger asks for help, say no and stay away from them. They may offer gifts, such as candy, money jobs, or lure them with a pet or a toy. Teach your children to never accept gifts from a stranger.
- Strangers may pretend to be an authority figure, such as a police officer or a clergyman. Uniforms are easy to get. If a person in a uniform of authority approaches your child, teach them that they should ask another adult to assist them. Strangers may create an emergency by saying something like; “your parents are hurt, I’m supposed to take you to the hospital.” Tell your child this would never happen.
- A lot of children are abducted on their way to and from school or the park. A child alone is an easy target. Teach children to walk and play together and to watch out for each other.
- Teach your children that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable. Explain to young children that the parts of their body that their bathing suit covers are their “private parts” and no one has the right to touch them there.
- Teach them that if any of these situations occur, they should tell you. Assure your child(ren) that if they’re ever lost or abducted, you will always love them and will look for them until you find them, no matter what. This is critical because most abductors tell children that their parents don’t want them anymore. If they believe this, they don’t have anywhere else to go.
- Children must know that you want them to come home.
- Finally, take your time teaching your children each of these points and be sure to reinforce them regularly. One good way is to turn it into a quiz game. Be sure to praise them when they know the right answer.
As parents, members of the community and as a nation, we must help the children who have been entrusted in our care.
(Reprinted with permission from the National Missing Children’s Locate Center – USA)