Abduction of a child is rare. It happens far less often than
death or injuries in car wrecks and in accidents and fires around the
home and neighborhood.
It is heartbreaking beyond words that someone would snatch your
child. Here are suggestions to make it less likely that your child will
fall for the ruses used in child abductions.
If your child gets lost or runs away, these precautions are useful.
While you want to protect your child against abduction, first consider
the more frequent risks. What can you do to have and use car seats and
seat belts and boosters? If your child resists, try making it a game.
Our young son as we got in the car admonished us, "Ucle
Regularly check for dangers around
the house, and practice how to escape from your home if there
is a fire. If you prepare your child to be safe from abduction while at
the same time you teach your child about seat belts, fire,
and other dangers, you are less likely to make your child overly suspicious
and paranoid about strangers. You do want your child aware of
the many different dangers
and to know how to take care of herself.
Here is recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics:
|Cause of death
Number in 2003
|Diseases, SIDS, perinatal conditions
Abduction, being lost
Do not make your child suspicious of strangers — most
people who smile or speak to your child at a playground, on the streets,
or in stores are friendly and not threatening.
The three essential keys for protecting your child are strangers,
distance, and messages.
Abductors usually try to entice your child to come close enough to touch and
to hold. Hold may be a friendly taking her hand. They usually try some ruse
to reduce the child’s suspicion as they get closer. There are many things
that stranger may say to make your child feel curious and it is safe to
come closer. Keep out of arm’s reach; keep distant.
People who snatch your child are usually strangers. A potential abductor
could appear to be a police officer, priest, or wearing other reassuring
clothing. Focus your child’s attention on being wary of strangers.
Being wary does not mean being hostile, but it means keeping a safe
The message a potential abductor speaks may be, “Your mother sent
me to get you,” or “I’ve lost my dog and here’s
a picture; have you seen him? Come look at the picture and tell me if
you have seen my dog.” They may be authoritarian, saying
we are doing a reality TV show or we police are…" to draw your
child closer. Emphasize to your child to be wary of invitations by strangers
to come close enough that the adult can grab your child, or to get into
a car. Again the stranger will usually try to make your child relax as
they come closer — a lost pet, be on TV, help us police.
Above all, empower children to say no. "If a stranger reaches out
to take your hand, pull it back, turn, run away toward any
help in sight." Your child must have permission to be suspicious
and to distance themselves from any one getting too close.
Use the buddy system; encourage your child to stick with a friend when
at a playground or away from you. Encourage interdependence and playing
Brain storming party
You might try having children brain storm things a person might say to
trick her into getting closer. This might be a game at a party, so long
as all parents approve of doing that. A group of children will often think
of many messages, and coming from each other they may be taken more seriously.
Practice for all risks. It is not enough to talk about leaving a burning
house or buckling up; we need to practice the actions. You might
have local police or other parents role play snatchings and to imagine
situations. If such role playing is part of party games, and includes
preparing for other dangers, you should be able to help your child respond
appropriately to strangers without fear or paranoia.
For younger children
When children are learning to talk, help them learn identifiers, such
as to say their last name or street or address or phone number. For
younger children some identifiers that appear practical and realistic
to go inside of shoes, medical identifiers for diabetics and others who
need special care, and identifying bracelets with a variety of designs
to entice children to wear them — shop locally or Google for them.
Encourage each child to select their alternative.
Adolescent girls face special risks from those who may try to entice
them into modeling or other jobs, but actually prostitution.
Adolescents feel so invulnerable they may need gentle reminding ("I'm
glad you like your new femininity…"), and to use the buddy system.
For single parents a special situation is parent kidnapping, if the two
parents are not on friendly terms. This is such a special situation
with many possible unique problems, that you may want to explore it
with an attorney, school authorities, or police who are cooperative.
You must be sure school authorities are careful to release your child only to
you or to specific others.
Any time that a parent suspects a child may have been abducted or
is out of sight, report it immediately to start searches such as
in malls or playgrounds. Families with their own whistle
tune use it to locate lost children. Recent programs such as Amber
alerts are useful.