by Laurie Whitehead, Registered Mediator
In light of the recent child abduction scares that have taken place in and around our neighborhood, I think it's extremely important that we teach our children basic safety tips.
Teaching your child not to talk to strangers is not enough to keep them safe. Many children who are kidnapped from their "safe" neighborhoods did not even interact with a stranger but were grabbed by someone who jumped out of a car. Predators troll neighborhoods looking for easy targets.
Children need to be taught to always stay with their friends when playing in the front yard, preferably under the supervision of an adult, otherwise they should play in the back yard where it is safer.
Children also need to be taught to scream, yell, kick, and even fight if the abductor threatens to hurt them if they are not quiet. If an abductor covers their mouth with one hand, the child needs to bite them as hard as possible and then continue screaming "Fire!"
Don't teach your child to fear all strangers. Children who have been taught this are too afraid to ask anyone for help if they do become lost or find themselves being followed. This leaves them vulnerable to real danger. Children need to learn the difference between predators and strangers. A stranger might just save your child's life one day. Anyone your child doesn't know who tries to get them to leave their current environment would be considered a threat.
Approximately 85% of child abductions occur within 1/4 mile of the home or school. The most common kidnapping scenario happens right in front or very near the home in the evening hours between 4:00pm and 6:00pm when children are playing outside. Children riding bikes or roller blading are often targets. Children walking to and from school alone are also favorite victim groups, as with a child waiting alone at a bus stop. The riskiest situation is a child leaving a friend's house unescorted late at night. Never allow your child to walk home alone after dark!!!
Given the proper tools, any child can escape the grip of an adult. Practice with your child at home and see how empowered they feel when they learn how to release your grip with ease. Grab your child with one hand by the wrist. Instruct your child to grab your thumb and pull it back. It will be impossible for you to keep your grip!
Children need to follow the rules of being street smart all the time. If their instinct is telling them something is dangerous or just not quite right, get out of the area, tell an adult, or call 911. No one will think that they are silly. In fact, just the opposite--people will think that they are truly street smart!
*Laurie Whitehead is a registered mediator with the State of Georgia and does mediation consulting and cases with the Justice Center of Atlanta. Contact her for more information : (678) 462-9954, firstname.lastname@example.org.