Many parents are concerned about their children being taken by strangers. Although this is a legitimate concern, keep in mind that stranger abductions are rare. Family members or acquaintances are responsible for most incidents.
Train your child to be aware of his or her surroundings, how to identify a threat, and how to react. When children reach age three, they can begin to understand some of these basic concepts. Experts recommend teaching your child the following tips:
1) Stay away from strangers. Explain what makes a person a stranger for your child. Note that even someone with a familiar face is a stranger if you do not know him or her well. Don’t get close to them or feel as though you must answer any questions when someone is following you by car or on foot.
2) Run and scream. If someone tries to force you to go somewhere with them or tries to push you into a car, try to get away and make lots of noise.
3) Memorize a secret code word. Tell your child not to go with anyone under any circumstances unless that person also knows your family code word.
4) Adults shouldn’t ask children for help. For example, a child shouldn’t trust grown-ups who ask kids for directions or for help finding a puppy or kitten. A child who is approached in this way should tell the person, “Wait here and I’ll check with my mom or dad,” and then find his or her parents right away.
5) Ask for help when you are lost. If you get lost and can’t find your parents or nanny in a public place, immediately ask someone who works there for help.
6) Always ask for permission. Especially before going anywhere with anybody. Ask a parent or the grown-up in charge before leaving the yard or play area, or before going into someone’s home. Do not accept any unplanned offers for a ride—from someone known or unknown.
7) Be sure to tell a parent where you are going, how you will get there, who is going with you, and when you will be back. Be home at the agreed-upon time or else find a way to contact home directly.