Dear Moms & Dads,
Can you remember how many times have you been worrying sick about the safety for kids around strangers when your work commitments have forced you to train them for early independence?
In the modern family life of today, not every parent has the opportunity to send and fetch our children day in day out and the best protection we can ever provide them is perhaps a good foundation in safety education for kids.
P-A-D Approach In Teaching Safety For Kids Around Strangers
It is never too early to teach your child about safety for kids around strangers BUT it’s certainly too late if they are forced to deal with such situations barely prepared. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reveals that every year, there are about 800,000 cases of missing children are reported across the country and it’s all the more appalling to see innocent souls falling into the hands of cold abductors who would do anything to these kids to protect their sinful interests.
But how do we get the kids to listen?
Seeing the headline from the Daily News, LA: “Dateline” Shows How Kids Ignore Parents’ Instructions To Avoid Danger, the ignorance of safety for kids around strangers is really a big disappointment to parents as kids of today often see themselves as being invincible and tends to laugh off parents’ concerns as overrated. Hence, it is important to establish the sense of danger from very young age as they’re typically more susceptible to advice.
A little trick that often gets the kids to obey is to stop telling them like a story and spice up interaction through detective-like discussions by getting them to “piece-up” and “solve” problems on dangerous scenarios. Sounds hard? But it’s worth the little headache for their safe future
Kids also respond better when dull/mundane subjects are presented with creativity. Just like Pizza Hut’s delivery number that can be effortlessly memorize through their theme song, humming “Prepare! Avoid! Defend!” can surely pick a child’s interest to recap faster than plain reading.
Always remember that teaching safety for kids around strangers is similar to driving safety – it requires spontaneous reactions where textbook memorizing is worthless without practice.
Toddlers and young children should start with:
- Memorizing their names as well as their parents’.
- Memorizing Emergency Number such as “911” and if possible, at least 1 of the parent’s mobile number. Do not confuse them with too many contacts as they might forget in the state of panic.
- Being introduced to ONE speed dial number on your house phone.
- Always set a safe waiting point in case of getting separated and never budge until you pick them.
Older kids especially those allowed to go around the neighborhood with their friends should also be taught on additional skills such as:
- Mapping the safe routes in the neighborhood with them regularly.
- Travel their regular routes and walk them to school at least fortnightly to get the latest insight of the environment and people they interact with.
- Emphasize on paths and spots that should be avoided at all cost.
- Pinpoint safe places to seek for protection in case of being bullied or followed. The police kiosk is a good option, so are the local stores and restaurants.
- Get them to report their whereabouts to you and notify any changes en-route immediately.
- At this stage, it’s also highly recommended to teach your kids to make calls through operator by dialing “0” from public phones.
- Many people have advised on using family secret codes to mutually confirm your consented arrangement for someone to replace you to fetch your kids in your absence but this method should be adopted only if your child is mature enough to secure the password even from their closest friends.
Always justify to your kids that:
- No adult should be in the authority to request personal information and they should not divulge these details to any adults no matter how friendly they appear to be unless your kids personally need help.
- It is always acceptable to disregard strangers’ request even when being confronted and immediately seek approachable adults to sort out the situation. Emergency notifications involving family members should also be referred to a teacher in school or reliable individuals in the public.
- There is a degree of danger if they tip-off callers about being unaccompanied or revealing personal information over the phone. Regularly check on your kids by faking calls to them and review their responses.
Kids may be constantly alerted about strangers who trap them with sweet talk but there are also those who mum the kids’ reaction by shaking them up with sudden reprimand, threats or even aggression for easy abduction. To minimize this possibility, always advice your kids to:
- Walk with head looking straight ahead.
- Once a while, turn back and glance through the surroundings and people casually.
- Always have their back lean against a wall or corner while in the waiting so that they get a good view of the surroundings and suspicious people.
- Have them keep sufficient distance from strangers all the time in case they need to make an escape.
- Always tell your kids to oppose the vehicle direction when walking so that they can quickly spot any suspicious strangers trying to pull up beside them.
- Always seek a well-lit area whenever they need to stop temporarily.
- Don on lighter clothes and good shoes that can help them escape scenes faster. And never plug on the earphones when they’re on the move.
- Due preparations are also important at home where you can teach older kids to trigger the alarm during emergency.
Kidnaps are usually planned around the loopholes in your kids’ routine and stepping up on preventive measures can greatly narrow down the window of opportunity that the abductors are trying to seize.
Avoid Dangerous Situations
- Help your child to track down on people and places best avoided such as a secluded corner or poorly lit area.
- Unless your kids are asking for help, ask them to keep a good distance from strangers who try to approach them by ignoring their treats and immediately seek protection from a teacher in school. Otherwise, look for uniformed officers or get to a nearby crowd to alert the people of what’s happening.
- Remind your child to never travel alone. If they need to take the bridge or street around the corner, they should always wait for more by-passers to join the route.
Avoid Unnecessary Exposure
- Never display your child’s full name on his belongings such as bags, jackets or shoes. If you need to, do the marking on a less obvious location and use a symbol, icon or initial.
- Advise your children to not answer door or mail delivery under any circumstances when they’re home alone. Justify that it’s acceptable to be safe than sorry as you can always claim missed delivery and contact unattended visitors when you return.
It is of course our hope that children never need to face this situation but it’s good to psychologically equip them by registering appropriate responses as effective training on safety for kids around strangers.
- Teach your child to shout “STRANGER”, “HELP!” or “THIEF!” instead of “don’t” or “no” which may send confusing signals to other people.
- Teach them to drop everything from their hands, even bags, if they ever need to make a quick escape from suspicious strangers.
- Show them how to fidget, squirm and kick while shouting for help when being grabbed.
- Teach them some basic self defense such as kicking the assailant’s groin or biting hard on their hands if they can loosen the grip.
- Tell your child that a victim who has been force into a car trunk can position the legs so that they can kick out the taillight to alert someone on the road.