A parent’s worst nightmare is to find out that a child is missing. More often than not, missing children have run away from home or simply improperly communicated their plans to their parents. According to ChildFindOfAmerica.org, an estimated 2,300 children are missing every day in the United States. Here are 5 tips for parents to equip themselves and their children with the knowledge and skills they need to help protect themselves from being a kidnap victim. While you can’t absolutely prevent such a tragedy, you can make it less likely to happen with these tips for how to prevent child abduction. Reassure young children that they are most likely safe if they use these prevention tips. You don’t want them to feel fearful, just aware.
These tips for how to prevent your child from being abducted are aimed at parents. I also share a personal story that you may want to use as a conversation starter. It is a real true life event that happened to be in third grade. I have always been mindful of my surroundings and people in them ever since. Showing awareness of your surroundings when in a public place and of the presence of others is in itself a deterrent for potential criminals. A potential abductor doesn’t want you to see them coming and they don’t want to be identified easily.
5 Tips For How To Prevent Child Abduction and Kidnapping
Teach Kids about Strangers
Most children have been taught to trust and respect adults. Unfortunately, all adults are not worthy of such reverence. Parents must teach their children to be weary of stranger danger and the tactics they might use to take them away. Children need to know that it is never okay to go anywhere with a stranger, even if they have candy or a puppy! Kids should not wear shirts or backpacks with the child’s name printed on. Doing so may allow a stranger to pretend to know them.
There are a portion of children who are kidnapped at the hands of someone they know. Parents can help avoid this occurrence by informing their children when family members or another trusted adult is supposed to pick them up. They may even want to to provide the child with a secret code word for such events.
Here is a startling fact from kidshealth.org: “Of the kids and teens who are truly abducted, most are taken by a family member or an acquaintance; 25% of kids are taken by strangers.” These are often parental abductions so parents of divorced or separating parents should have a clear schedule. Likewise, parents should inform the schools and daycare centers of people who are authorized to pick their children up and when.
Kids should also know that they can and should speak to a police officer if they need help or they are lost. A mother with children is another pretty safe bet.
Teach Kids to Be Cautious
Most kidnappings are true crimes of opportunity. Kidnappers are on the lookout for easy targets. This makes it all the more important for children to remain attentive and aware of their surroundings. Teach them to watch for suspicious cars and people. Teach them to take different routes home from school if they think they’re being followed. This will protect them from leading kidnappers to their homes or being snatched off the streets. If there are no other witnesses on the street, I will cross to the other side of the road before I pass a parked van without clear windows. This may seem like a simple tip for how to prevent child abduction but it is a very useful one!
Use the Buddy System
Kidnappers tend to prey on children who are alone or away from their groups. On the other hand, children who travel in groups are able to look out for one another and can potentially defend one another against attackers. Teaching children the importance of traveling in packs will allow them to make safer choices. Using the buddy system is a helpful tip in the prevention of child abduction.
Teach At-Home Safety
Not all kidnappings occur on the streets. A good number of children are taken right out of their very own homes. Parents can prevent this from happening by stressing the importance of at-home security. Children should be taught to lock all doors and windows. Children who make it home before their parents should take an extra step and call them while they search the home for potential intruders. Both practices will prevent dangerous people from having access to them.
One of the best ways to protect children is to place limits on when and where they can go outside the home. Likewise, parents must set limits on who their children can travel with. These limitations will allow parents to control the safety of their children’s environments when they’re not around.
It seems like children will never truly be safe in today’s world. However, parents can certainly make it a bit safer by arming children with knowledge to protect themselves. Within the confines of solid boundaries, parents can do their best to protect their kids and arm their kids with knowledge and preparedness to try to prevent kidnapping. You can also give kids personal safety devices but that should not replace communication and limits.
Here is my own personal story below that may help you talk with your child about a real life example. When it comes to how to prevent your child from being abducted, talking to them about the possible danger is the best tool you have. A child’s safety may depend on the child abduction prevention measures you take before hand.
Prevention of Child Abduction- A Personal Experience
A note about this article on preventing kidnapping: I don’t usually publish what I think of as “fear pieces”. However, I will tell you that I feel very strongly about talking to kids about real dangers. I believe that being aware of the danger is an important step in how to prevent child abduction. This information just may help save them. Furthermore, I feel that danger is more prevalent than we tend to believe.
I myself was attacked in broad daylight, in a small town, as a 9 year old child. Because my mother had talked to me previously about the subject, I knew to shout, fight, and run. That may be the reason I am here today. I try to not to put fear into my kids. I tell them most people are nice and good. However, I tell my kids to trust their gut above all else. I knew in my gut when the man approached me. I tell my kids it is better to be safe than sorry. Better to offend someone or feel silly, than to end up a victim. Talk to your kids!
Adults Shouldn’t Ask Children For Help- Warning Signs
This is what happened to me. I had just gotten home from school and I had a key to my house. However, I didn’t want to go inside and wait all by myself. My mom would be back from her college class in about 40 minutes but I was lonely. I decided to walk down the street two blocks to a friend’s house. It turned out she wasn’t home.
I started walking back to my house and as I was coming to an intersection, I saw a man approaching the intersection too. I started to speed up a bit so I would not cross paths too closely. He called out to me, “Do you know where Marshall Street is?”
I paused just a bit. I didn’t want to be rude so I called over my shoulder, “No”. But he was closer already. I sped up more. He sped up. I could feel him behind me getting closer and I knew it was all wrong. I started to run and he started to run. He had hold of me in just a minute. One arm around me and pressing something to my face with the other.
Use Your Voice
I squirmed free and ran about 5 steps. I didn’t think. It all happened so fast but I turned back around to face him and I was shouting. Shouting bad words, “Don’t you f*^%ing touch me, you aS&*^*e!” I don’t know what all I said but I was shouting as loud as I could and I kept the profanities coming. What else did a 9 year old have as a defense except to try to scare him away? He was going to catch me if I ran. He was going to beat me if I fought. I just tried to scare him, and do you know what? A miracle happened- he said, “OK, ok,” and he turned and ran away.
I was left shaking on the sidewalk. Now what? I knew he would come back for me so I ran past my empty house to a day care center. I asked the people if I could come in. They let me stay until my mom got home and she called the police. Weeks later, I had to identify him in the police office. They brought him in for questioning and he confessed. He was known for calling out obscenities to children from his house. Still makes me shake thinking about it.
Kids should always know they can talk to you about anything and that you will be there and listen. That is why I talked to my mom and told her what happened that day. She had read to me out a church leaflet previously about what to do if people tried to touch you in ways you didn’t want. I knew I could tell her anything. That is wasn’t my fault and I didn’t have to be ashamed.
Take advantage of any teachable moments to open the lines of communication. I hope my personal experience and these tips for how to prevent child abduction helps you start the conversation.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Telephone number: 1-800-THE-LOST