Talking About Strangers

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A parents worst nightmare: your child goes missing. No one saw anything, no one knows what happened. One minute your child is there, then they’re gone. How can you prevent this from happening? There are approximately 2,100 reports of missing children filed every day. As alarming as that sounds, the majority of children make it through their childhood safely.

My husband and I talk to our son all the time about strangers. When he started talking and interacting with others, he never met a stranger. He would smile, talk and wave to anybody. After his second birthday, we started talking to him about going with other people. It is important to make sure your child understands that they do not go anywhere with anyone except those you, as parents, have deemed safe. In our case, he knows it’s okay to go with his grandparents and his aunt.

Now, of course, he overly wary of anyone he doesn’t know. If we are in his grandmother’s antique store and he sees someone new, he immediately hides behind myself, my husband or his grandmother. Once we say it is okay, he will introduce himself to that person. But even after the introduction, he knows he is not allowed to go with anyone except for those people we have said are okay.

There are many things a parent can do to help prevent their child from being taken. Here is a small list:

* * “Never take candy or gifts from a stranger.”

* * “Never get into a car with someone you don’t know or who doesn’t know our password.”

* * “If someone asks for your help, find an adult you know and tell them about the person who needs your help.”

* * “Never open the door for anyone unless they know the password.”

* * “Run away screaming if someone tries to make you get in their car or does something you do not like.”

Parents need to set down some boundaries and let their children know with whom and where they are allowed to go. Make sure they know their phone number and home address in case they get lost. Get your children ID-like cards every six months and have them fingerprinted. Some local police departments have fingerprinting programs for children. Also, there are several online resources for ID cards and fingerprinting.

As we hear more stories about children being abducted, the more parents realize that it is harder to keep children safe. We can’t be with them every hour of the day, but we can instill in our children the “street-smarts” that will help them understand how to keep themselves safe.

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