What do parents need to know about protecting their children?
The following are some useful tips, though they need
to be adjusted to the age and needs of your child:
1. Establish a "family password" and drill your
kids so that they understand that if anyone ever comes to pick them up at school "because Mumy or Daddy is sick" that person
MUST give them the family password, or the child should not leave with them. Kids like family secrets, and should have no
trouble dealing with this concept.
2. Tell them success stories about kids defending themselves,
such as the 12 year old girl who was recently accosted by a man with a gun on her way to school. He told her to get into his
van. She was more afraid of the van than the gun (wise child), and managed to break free and run away. He didn't shoot at
her, and was later picked up by police and charged with several child murders. The point is that it is important to resist
strongly and early in the interaction, not to go along (in the van, for example), hoping that the situation will somehow get
better later on.
3. Role play with them in a low key way, so that
they really know how to respond to a variety of situations. One girl who was walking home from school when she was accosted,
and had trouble running away because she was afraid to drop her schoolbooks, fearing that her father would be angry at her
if she lost the books. Parents spend a lot of time trying to get kids to understand and adopt our usual adult priorities,
and it is very important that kids understand that all those normal rules are suspended if they are in personal danger!
4. Far more important than formal classes are the attitudes
about self-protection that parents convey to kids. If Mum is alert, unafraid, and self-reliant, the kids will tend to be so,
too. Teach them that it is OK to scream, really loud, if they are in danger. If someone covers their mouth, teach them that
it is alright to kick and scratch (not wildly, but targeted areas such as groin, eyes, throat and knees).
6. Don't have backpacks and clothing with the
child's name visibly on it. It allows a stranger to call the child by name, and kids are less suspicious of (and more likely
to obey) someone who knows their name.
7. Remember that the media strive to entertain as well
as inform, and horror stories involving children get a huge amount of press and air time, because they sell a lot of papers
and make people watch the TV, NOT BECAUSE THEY HAPPEN OFTEN. Kidnapping is every parent's worst nightmare, but it is NOT a
common crime. It may not be increasing, though the "extensive media coverage" may make it feel that way. While teaching your
children how to protect themselves from that, don't forget to teach them how to protect themselves from much more common threats,
such as school yard bullies, friends experimenting with drugs, pedophiles, handbag snatchers, etc.