One of our greatest fears as parents is our child being kidnapped. We’ve watched movies, the news, heard horror tales, but what do most parents do? Do we point out the scene during the movie and tell our child this is what you should and shouldn’t do? But is that enough to prepare them?
That’s the thing. It’s not. Best case scenario is we never have to encounter this, but second best is our child becomes lucky and breaks free from the kidnapping. We expect them to be the hero in the movie they just saw but is that realistic?
With everything in life, they need practice and repetition. There are four main steps we need to teach our kids:
- Be aware of surroundings to avoid a potential kidnapping. Start to prompt your kid to observe. You can start in the driveway, ask them if anyone is around? Where can someone approach from? When sitting at a restaurant, locate the adults. This can be repeated for parks, museums, anywhere. Make it a frequent exercise so it becomes second nature. Advancing to the next level: ask your child where they can move or place themselves that would be safe.
- Define a stranger to your child. It may seem obvious, but it may be confusing as an adult may be kind and try to help but in reality, has ill-intention. A good way to start is to spot a person in uniform. This uniform will vary depending on the location. A police officer is obvious, but most restaurants or amusement parks don’t have police officers, so another choice would be to have your child locate the server or a uniformed employee and ask for help. Advancing to the next level: let’s say you’re eating at the food court with your child, you get up to throw your trash away at a nearby trash can while keeping an eye on your kid. Before you get up, prompt your kid. “What do you say if someone approaches you? What do you do?” This gets your kid noticeably aware they are on their own and independent. They must watch out for themselves.
Self-defense. Train them on what to do if approached by a stranger and you are not present. Teach them to scream as loud as they can. Since we usually teach kids to lower their volume more than anything, some kids have not exercised these vocal cords so when the moment comes, their voice may not be as loud as we expect. Have them practice screaming as loud as possible. However, their kidnapping may occur in a place that is so already very loud, or many parents drown out screaming kids at the park kids often scream and cry when they don’t want to go home. Screaming at the top of their lungs is not an anomaly at the park. Teaching kids to scream “Stranger Danger” repeatedly until they see an adult they recognize would be more advantageous. Repetition may not be intuitive for kids so the need for repetition must be emphasized.
- Advancing to the next level: it’s important to teach the kids where a person is weak, appropriate places to hit (nose, eyes, pulling at ear, groin) so that when faced with the opportunity, they don’t miss.
- I highly recommend taking a private self-defense class, one in which a trainer can help spot your child’s weaknesses and strengths to help improve self-defense. Ideally training is forever but, of course, life happens so I recommend weekly classes and then maybe tapering to once monthly.
- Memorize important information. Have them memorize phone numbers and addresses as soon as they can speak. We live in a world full of technology and if you ask most kids, even teenagers today, they cannot recite their parents phone numbers by heart. Most kidnappers don’t voluntarily return the cellphone to the kids when they escape so drill this information into your kids!
The mnemonic for kids is: “Big Dogs Say Moo.” For us adults: BDSM 😉
Lastly, repeat these steps to them and ask them “what would you do?” in scenarios or even when you’re waiting in line. Make it a game and that it becomes second nature. Hopefully, they never have to use it but at least with training, they will have plan and not face decision paralysis.