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Should You Discuss Kidnapping with Your Kids?

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Dr. Michelle Golland: In light of the recent stranger abduction of 4-year-old Alisa Maier, I think it's important to discuss the topic of kidnapping with your children. Alisa's story can be used to highlight the importance of being safe. It's an opening to tell your kids what to do if somebody ever attempts to take them against their will.

mom and son talking

My children are 6 and 9, and both of them have been told Alisa's story. I used it as a real-life example of why we go over safety issues in our family. I want my children to be scared to a certain extent. No, I don't give them the gory details of sexual abuse, but I do tell them that people who abduct kids usually kill them. I want them to be afraid enough to do anything and everything not to be taken by a stranger. 

We keep hearing about kids who are taken while playing in their front yards unsupervised. It doesn't matter how long these kids were left unattended, because, as we know, child sexual predators will take any opportunity given to them, no matter how small the window of time may be.

To put it simply, kids should not play alone in the front yard. When my kids want to play in our front yard, I just say no. They can play in our backyard, and no, my son will not be riding his bike to the park to meet a friend. It is just not going to happen at 9 years of age. Yes, they want to, but that doesn't mean it's a safe thing to do.

Discussing "Stranger Danger"

  • Explain that they should never leave where they are with an adult they don't know. Come up with a family code word that must be used in the rare event that an unknown but trusted adult has to pick them up.
  • Teach your kids to scream. They should practice loud and long screams, and learn to shout, "Help me! This is not my daddy or mommy!" (This will alert others around them to the situation better than screaming alone.)
  • Teach your kids where to hit adults. They should know to kick the private parts and poke the eyes. 
  • Play the "What if ..." game. Ask your kids, "What if ..." and give them different scenarios. Help them work through the best course of action. A few examples: "What if you're lost at the store? What if an adult asks for your help? What if an adult wants you to keep a secret?" And so on.

It is important to discuss safety issues with your children in an open, honest and age-appropriate manner. Our children need to be given concrete ways to deal with the dangers that do exist in their world.


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25 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara July 9, 2010, 7:40 AM

Your poor kids. Growing up afraid.

Kids should play in their front yards with friends unsupervised if they’re old enough to be responsible about staying out of the street.

If you want to keep your kids safe stress the importance of being safe in and around vehicles, teach them to swim and always make sure they’re well supervised in the pool. Those are the things that are real risks for kids, not kidnapping.

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Stephanie July 10, 2010, 5:28 AM

@Sara - I teach my child - who is 5 - the same things. She is not scared child. She understands that while most people are good, there are some bad people out there. It has not stiffled her friendliness toward others - she just usually asks me if it is ok to talk to the adult that smiled at her in the grocery checkout line. When I say yes - because I am there - they are usually impressed. You are correct about other dangers being more likly to happen. But look at it this way: the chances of being struck by lightening are a longshot but I don’t let my child play outside during a thunderstorm. Therefore, while the odds are *against* her being kidnapped, I want her to be safe.

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