At the age of 5 no matter how many times I went over the concept of strangers with my oldest he just didn’t seem to get it. He kept thinking that if he just introduced himself to a stranger that they could make friends and that, that person wouldn’t be a stranger anymore. This left him pretty vulnerable and made me feel like I needed to watch him like a hawk for fear that he would walk off with a random person if I so much as turned my back. This really concerned and aggravated me. I would talk with him almost daily about it, but I wasn’t getting through. Some of my acquaintances thought that I was being more than a little helicoptery and alarmist. They kept telling me to relax and to stop thinking so ill of the world; reminding me that people are inherently good. This left me feeling worse as well as at an impasse on what to do.
He started going to Taekwondo and about three weeks in they did a whole week on bad strangers (strangers that mean us harm). All around me I saw parent heads nodding in ascent of the things that the instructor was saying. He was saying what I had been trying to say all this time, that as a parent you never think that the horrible things that you see on T.V. could ever happen to you. There are so many more good people in the world than bad. Because of this trust in the world and our neighbors, we can sometimes leave our children unprepared for that one instance where things really do go wrong.
Teaching your child what to do in case of emergency or how to react to people and instances that may cause them harm is not being alarmist. It is simply preparing your child so that if something should go wrong or someone should wish to cause them harm that they are prepared. When you impart these lessons to your children you hope and pray that they will never have cause to use this information, but you rest assured that if something did happen, that they were prepared.
Teach your child that absolutely everything can be used as a weapon to defend themselves, a rock, frisbee, backpack, stick and even a toy truck. If it is within arm’s reach it can be used to fend off someone who is attempting to grab them. They key is to run as soon as their would be abductor falls to the ground or backs away. Every moment they stay adds to the risk of eventual abduction.
There are a few hard and fast rules that you can teach your child that never have exceptions:
• An adult or teenager would never need help from a child even if they are looking for a puppy or a kitten.
• Never walk off with a stranger (or someone they know) or let someone pick you up from school unless it has been prearranged with their parents.
• Never take anything (toys, candy, food) from an adult or older kid unless mom or dad are there and say it is ok.
If someone grabs hold of them and tries to force them into a car or carry them away they can:
• Grab onto anything that is near (tree, lamp post, mailbox, stop sign, bike rack) and never let go.
• Scream and make as much noise as possible.
• Wave and kick their arms and legs as erratically as possible. This makes them hard to hold and or grab onto.
• Yell, “help, stranger, help” over and over and over until someone comes.
If someone manages to put them in a car trunk they can:
• Feel for the emergency release lever and pull it to open the trunk (try showing them where it is in your own car). These levers are most often glow in the dark so that they can be easily found.
• Pull hard on any wires that they see or feel. The hope is that they would disconnect the tail/brake lights causing them to get into an accident or get pulled over.
• Break the brake light protective panel and push/smash the lights out of the vehicle. This make creates a hole that you can fit your hand through to signal other cars.
Start talking with your children today about things that they can do to protect themselves. A prepared child is a safe child.
Destiny Effertz is a mother of 3 boys; twin 3 year olds and a 5 year old. She worked for many years as a civil litigation paralegal prior to having children. Now she spends her days formulating new pie recipes, throwing epic kid parties, planning family vacations, and planning and executing pirate adventures and trips to far away planets with her boys.
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