For me, as a mother and teacher, one of the things I tend to worry about is child abduction. We see it on the news, in the papers, and can check our own neighborhoods with Watchdog-type websites. Though we may not like to think about it happening, it is a reality, and it is important not only to be ever-vigilant, but also to teach our children how to respond to “Stranger Danger”.
For example- a gut reaction of a child being picked up and taken against their will would be to cry and scream. But how many of us would think that child was in danger? No, we would assume, like most other children, that that child is having a tantrum and was told “No” to something. We would assume, without questioning or thinking, that the adult with the child was his or her parent. How then, can the child let us know they are in danger?
Teach your child what do say or do. Not just once- repeatedly. Don’t scare them- it’s a conversation, like the one you will have about illegal substances when they get older. You will say it more then once to reinforce it’s importance and to help them remember.
What should they say and do? Don’t just cry or scream. Specifically scream- “STRANGER DANGER”, and “This is not my Mommy/Daddy! I need help!” You would respond to that, wouldn’t you? Studies have shown that people do respond to those words, and will help your child.
Also tell your child it is OK, in that situation, to hit, kick, bite- anything to be put down.
Teach your child to never go with a stranger, even if they offer a treat, say you sent them, or use trickery like “I lost my puppy- Can you help me find it?” Tell your child to run away as fast as they can, and tell a trusted adult.
If lost or separated- stay in one place, and find an adult that can help you. A police person or guard is great- but if that is not available, make a list of good choices! Someone working at the store you are in, a lifeguard if you are at the beach, etc. If all else fails? Find a Mommy with multiple children. She will be too busy to be causing any mischief on her own, and will empathize with your child and you. She will make sure your child is taken someplace safe where you can be found and paged.
Remember what your child is wearing, in case of separation. Make sure your child knows his/her and your first and last name so you can be paged. I like to put identity bracelets on my children when we travel or have a busy attraction we are going to. It shows their name, my name, and my cell number so I can be reached if we are separated. If you are at a hotel, you can put the business card of the place you are staying into their pocket so that someone can be reached, and it will be known where to reach you.
I try to talk about this regularly with my kids and my classroom, just in case. I hope they will never need it, but if anything should happen, I want them to be able to be helped- and be found- as quickly as possible. Be casual, speak frankly, and often. Answer your child’s questions, they will surely have some at first. Be patient. This will hopefully never be needed- but it’s always best to be safe.
Have a wonderful, safe, happy and healthy summer!
Samantha is an adoptive and biological mother, writer, and teacher. A recent grad student, lover of books, travel, yoga, animals, children, and fun. Always on the lookout for adventure, we have sippy, and will travel