Guest Author - Donna Johnson
Everyone knows the old standby “stranger danger.” But teaching kids about this issue is not as simple as saying, "Don't talk to strangers." Some strangers can be incredibly persuasive when they set their sights on a child. They may ask for help finding a lost pet, or offer the child ice cream or another treat to come with them. Tell your children that adults should not approach kids for help with anything-asking an adult to help them is more sensible and usual. They also should be taught to never go anywhere with an adult they don’t know.
Child predators have thought long and hard about how to get around stranger danger, however. They may tell your child that he is a friend of yours that you sent to come get them. Sometimes, they will say you have been injured or are sick and need the child to come with them to see you. Explain to your child that you will never send anyone, aside from a few trusted people such as the other parent, grandparents or a regular babysitter, to come pick them up. Tell her if anyone says otherwise, they are lying and she should get away from them as fast as she can. On the other hand, if you do not have a core group of people to choose from to pick up your child in an emergency, you may choose a password with your child, that you can give to anyone you have to send for her. Tell her never to go with anyone who does not know the password, and change the password after each use.
Parents must also realize there may come a time when a child has to approach a stranger for help. Perhaps she got lost at the store, or dropped off at the wrong bus stop. You can help prepare your child to choose the best possible stranger to approach for help. When shopping, point out the uniforms the workers in the store wear, and instruct your child to only approach an employee who is wearing one. If she cannot find an employee, or is not lost in a store, statistically your child is better off approaching a woman for help. Although female child predators do exist, they are not as commonplace as male ones. You can also instruct her to choose a woman who has children with her if it all possible.
Some predators do not waste time waiting for a child to approach them or attempting to talk a child into coming with them, but physically grab and kidnap her instead. In the next article of this series, your Crime Editor will discuss some strategies your child can use to avoid being grabbed or escape the kidnapper once he has put his hands on her.