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Protecting Your Child

Communicate With Your Child:

After hearing the tragic stories about abducted or exploited children, most parents are surprised to learn that many crimes against children can be prevented.

The most important key to child safety is effective communication with your child. Remember, children who are not listened to or who do not have their needs met in the home are more vulnerable to abduction or exploitation. The first step you should take is to establish an atmosphere in the home in which your child feels truly comfortable in discussing sensitive matters and in relating experiences in which someone may have approached the child in an inappropriate manner or in a way that made the child uncomfortable. The simple truth is that children are often too afraid or too confused to report their experiences and their fears. In some ways, you should treat your children as you would your adult friends allow them to talk freely about their likes and dislikes, their friends, their true feelings.

Unfortunately, the rising awareness of crimes against children has left many families with a real sense of fear. You and your child need to be careful, but you do not need to be afraid. Talk to your child in a calm and reasonable manner, being careful not to discuss the frightening details of what might happen to a child who does not follow the safety guidelines.

Not A Stranger:

"Stay away from strangers" is a popular warning to children to prevent abduction or exploitation. Unfortunately, however, many children are abducted or exploited by people who have some type of familiarity with the children but who may or may not be known to the parents.

The term STRANGER suggests a concept that children do not understand and is one that ignores what we do know about the people who commit crimes against children. It misleads children into believing that they should be aware only of individuals who have an unusual or slovenly appearance. Instead, it is more appropriate to teach our children to be on the lookout for certain kinds of SITUATIONS or ACTIONS rather than certain kinds of individuals.

Children can be raised to be polite and friendly, but it is okay for them to be suspicious of any adult asking for assistance. Children help other children, but there is no need for them to be assisting adults. Children should not be asked to keep special secrets from their parents and, of course, children should not be asked to touch anyone in the bathing suit areas of their body or allow anyone to touch them in those areas.

Often exploiters or abductors initiate a seemingly innocent contact with the victim. They may try to get to know the children and befriend them. They use subtle approaches that both parents and children should be aware of. Children should learn to stay away from individuals in cars or vans; and they should know that it is okay to say NO -- even to an adult.

Remember, a clear, calm, and reasonable message about SITUATIONS and ACTIONS to look out for is easier for a child to understand than a particular profile or image of a "stranger."


  • Know where your children are at all times. Be familiar with their friends and daily activities.
  • Be sensitive to changes in your children's behavior; they are a signal that you should sit down and talk to your children about what caused the changes.
  • Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your children or giving them inappropriate or expensive gifts.
  • Teach your children to trust their own feelings, and assure them that they have the right to say NO to what they sense is wrong.
  • Listen carefully to your children's fears, and be supportive in all your discussions with them.
  • Teach your children that no one should approach them or touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If someone does, they should tell the parents immediately.
  • Be careful about babysitters and any other individuals who have custody of your children.

Basic Rules Of Safety:

As soon as your children can articulate a sentence, they can begin the process of learning how to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation. Children should be taught

  • If you are in a public place, and you get separated from your parents, don't wander around looking for them. Go to a checkout counter, the security office, or the lost and found and quickly tell the person in charge that you have lost your mom and dad and need help in finding them.
  • You should not get into a car or go anywhere with any person unless your parents have told you that it is okay.
  • If someone follows you on foot or in a car, stay away from him or her. You don't need to go near the car to talk to the people inside.
  • Grownups and other older people who need help should not be asking children for help; they should be asking older people.
  • No one should be asking you for directions or to look for a "lost puppy" or telling you that your mother or father is in trouble and that he will take you to them.
  • If someone tries to take you somewhere, quickly get away from him (or her) and yell or scream. "This man is trying to take me away" or "This person is not my father (or mother)."
  • You should try to use the "buddy system" and never go places alone.
  • Always ask your parents' permission to leave the yard or play area or to go into someone's home.
  • Never hitchhike or try to get a ride home with anyone unless your parents have told you it is okay to ride with him or her.
  • No one should ask you to keep a special secret. If he or she does, tell your parents or teacher.
  • If someone wants to take your picture, tell him or her NO and tell your parents or teacher.
  • No one should touch you in the parts of the body covered by the bathing suit, nor should you touch anyone else in those areas. Your body is special and private.
  • You can be assertive, and you have the right to say NO to someone who tries to take you somewhere, touches you, or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way.

The Responsibility Of Everyone:

Because children cannot look out for themselves, it is our responsibility to look out for them. Every home and school should establish a program that effectively teaches children about safety and protection measures. As a parent, you should take an active interest in your children and listen to them. Teach your children that they can be assertive in order to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation.

And, most important, make your home a place of trust and support that fulfills your child's needs so that he or she won't seek love and support from someone else.

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