There are few things more terrifying than the thought of your child being abducted.
Keeping our children safe, and more importantly, giving them the skills to remain that way, is crucial. Here’s the latest information on best equipping your child for dealing with this kind of situation.
A very real fear
Recent attempted abductions have brought the topic of child safety firmly back to the forefront. While conscientious and ‘alert not alarmed’ parenting is always important, it’s not until the threat level rises that we really start thinking about how safe our children are and how they might react in a dangerous situation.
Moving on from stranger danger
The old ‘stranger danger’ campaign is no longer the most effective way to prepare parents and children for dangerous situations, according to Safely Ever After, an initiative founded and developed by children’s safety advocate Pattie Fitzgerald in 2001. The new way to approach the topic is by using the phrase ‘tricky people’, a term used to describe anyone who makes a child feel unsafe, puts them in a situation where they feel uncomfortable or encourages them to break the family safety rules. It’s not how a ‘tricky person’ looks but crucially, how they make a child feel. Safely Ever After describes it as the ‘Uh-Oh’ feeling; an instinctive reaction to a situation that just doesn’t ‘feel’ right.
Encouraging boundaries & using gut instinct
Children tend to have underdeveloped but extremely strong gut instinct. It’s often adults who, intentionally or unintentionally, encourage them to go against their gut. It’s one of the reasons that child safety advocates advise against ever ‘forcing’ a child to have physical contact with another person. Many of us have had the experience of a wilful child not wanting to give a relative a kiss or cuddle. While it may be uncomfortable for us, it’s important to respect a child’s boundaries and decision making process around who they feel comfortable having physical contact with. It’s a skill that goes a long way in helping children to identify what feels good, and more importantly, what doesn’t during interactions with other people.
There’s only one rule: No Secrets, Ever.
Safely Ever After encourages one rule above and beyond everything else. No Secrets, Ever. This is a protective behaviour that helps children to recognise that someone who is asking them to keep a secret, especially one that starts with the words, ‘Don’t tell mum and dad’ is displaying classic, ‘tricky person’ behaviour.
Strategies to prevent the worst from happening
Parental vigilance can go a long way in preventing the worst kinds of events from occurring. Partnering this with a sustained and continued focus on preventative behaviours is the best way to create an awareness in your children as to what they should be cautious of. Safely Ever After recommends the following prevention tips:
- Remind your children that safe grownups never ask kids for help. They don’t need to do that as they are the adults.
- A tricky person can be someone you know well, like a relative, know a little, like the postman, or someone you don’t know at all. ANYONE who encourages you to break the rules or do something that makes you feel uncomfortable is not ok.
- Regularly practice personal safety strategies and scenarios. Ask your kids how they would respond in various situations and talk through their answers.
- Encourage them to trust their instincts and their gut feelings.
- Develop strong, open communication skills with your child so that they know they can come to you with anything concerning them, even if they think it’s silly or trivial.
How would your kids respond? Watch the video.
While this is obviously a (safely) orchestrated social experiment, the result is harrowing. All three kids hop happily into the car with a complete stranger, oblivious to any apparent danger. It’s a great illustration of how important it is to continuously reinforce to your children the ‘tricky people’ message.