How to Keep Your Children Safe In Dangerous Times
“It won’t happen to my children. I watch them.” We hear parents say that all the time but yet roughly 2,300 children go missing every day in the United States. This number includes abductions, kidnappings, runaways, and children that become lost. (1)
From the moment we lay eyes on our beautiful children we know that we would protect them with everything we have and make all sacrifices needed for their safety. We frequently use the term “mama bear” to emphasize how ferocious we can be when our children are in harm’s way. Heartbreak, accidents, bullying, financial woes, and educational struggles are just a few of life’s struggles that our children will experience. We may not be able to protect them from all situations but we can definitely help them learn how to cope when they occur. These are common fears among us but what happens when our worst fear becomes reality? What happens when your child goes missing without a trace or is put in a harmful situation? Even the most hands-on and diligent parents can fall victim to tragedies involving the disappearance or abuse of their child.
The good news is while we can not prevent every dangerous situation that our children may encounter, we can educate them on how to protect themselves if a situation arises. The following tips can help prevent your child from landing in a scary and dangerous situation.
Prevention And Tips To Keep Your Children Safe
1. Map Out The Areas You Will Be In
Whether you are going to be traveling to the local zoo, family members’ home, or a family vacation it is important to know your surroundings. Your children (at least the young ones) should never be out of your line of vision. It takes only a few seconds for a child to disappear, fall into a pool, or get injured. While we were traveling to this last year we stayed in Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. While both my husband and I are from large cities on the west coast our children are from a small town in Maine. We scouted out the areas we would be staying in, searching for crime rates and important information regarding these cities. As with most large cities, there were areas to avoid and so we were able to book our lodging in the nicer areas. However, not every attraction we went to visit was in a safe neighborhood. In these instances, we had a serious discussion about the importance of not speaking to strangers, following anyone we don’t know, and overall the art of learning to mind your business. Sounds easier than it is when you have a very “helpful” 8-year-old.
2. Leashes! They Are Not Only For Dogs!
When I was a new mother and would go out to soak in the sunshine with my daughter I would frequently see parents with little backpack leashes or straps that would tie around both the parent’s wrist and their toddler. Being a brand new mother and being lucky enough to have a baby in a stroller I swore to myself that I would never put my child on a leash like they were a pet. Boy! Did I have a lot to learn! As my daughter aged and went from walking to full-on running trying to catch her in a crowd became difficult especially when I had her younger sister in a stroller now. That’s when the lightbulb turned on for me and I realized that all these parents with their fancy leashes were on to something. I went out and purchased one right away. A leash or backpack harness is literally a life-saving item that every parent should have. It only takes a moment for your toddler to run into a busy street, climb onto a dangerous item or exhibit, or be snatched in a crowd.
3. Invade Your Children’s Privacy…. Just A Little.
No, we are not suggesting you read your children’s diary and know their innermost thoughts and secrets. This is about adding and installing phone tracking apps into your children’s cell phones. In today’s world almost every child has a cell phone and as they get older and start going to extracurricular activities and parties without you communication becomes key to safety. Your children may protest a bit and not like the idea of being “spied” on but as a condition to having a phone explain to them this is not about you trusting them but simply being able to locate them in an emergency. Their cell phone should always be on them when they are away from home and while location app will not always be precise with modern-day technology they can “ping” the closest cell phone tower they have used. We recommend installing one of the following depending on which type of phone they use:
- Find My Iphone
- Life360-Family Locator
4. Be Honest And Don’t Censor.
As parents when we see horrific situations on the news our first thought is to protect our children from seeing them. We want our children to feel safe and keep them from the ugliness of the world as much as possible. The drawback to this is they may not know how to react when facing an unknown situation. It’s ok to discuss scary situations with them. Let them know you will always do your best to keep them safe but discuss how to handle scenarios if they were to ever occur without you. In our home, even our youngest child and I have had many conversations about the bad things that occur in the world. She feels more in control after discussing them and knows that no matter what it is always ok to tell me anything she is uncomfortable with.
5. Monitoring Social Media
In today’s world of social media, it has opened up some great avenues for us to keep in touch with friends and families. The downfall however is it is also a predator’s dream. When people are behind a keyboard they can be anyone they want. Many children and even adults have been “catfished” over the years only to realize the person they may have had a relationship or friendship with was nowhere near who they said they were. Photos and names can easily be faked and gaining a child’s trust can put them in a dangerous situation. Follow the set guidelines of each social media avenue. There are minimum ages for a reason and if your child is mature enough for an account, guidelines must be in place. Change their privacy settings so that strangers can not see their information or photos. Reiterate to not respond to strangers’ messages or accept their friend requests. Most importantly though never post your private information online such as location, a school they attend, phone numbers, etc. Also, tell your children they are never to meet up with an online friend alone. If you have investigated and are reasonably certain this friend is who they say they are, go with your child and supervise them playing in a public place. Until your child is older and fully understands the dangers of social media, frequently monitor all activities and messages.
6. Secure Your Home
Home is your safe place and you want to keep it this way. Whether we are home or not we secure the locks in all our windows and doors. With the rise of burglaries and assaults, you will always want to go over home safety as well. Always tell your children do not to answer the door when they are home unless it is someone they know. The newest ways for robbery include individuals coming to your home and posing as utility workers, plumbers, etc to gain access to your home. In addition, each night lock all doors, windows, pet doors, etc. I also recommend an alarm to not only keep people out but to keep your children safely in. When my daughter was 3 she was napping in her room while I cooked an early dinner. During that time she had crept downstairs and slipped out our back sliding door. While luckily she was found and brought back the ten minutes of pure fear is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. We didn’t have the ability to install a security system at the home but we were able to install a drop-down bar at the top of the sliding door so it could no longer be opened by our children. In addition, you can purchase cheap alarms to add to each door. When a door was opened a siren would go off until the door closed again. It wasn’t perfect but it kept our daughter from any more solo adventures.
In Case “IT” Happens- What Every Child Should Know
Even with the best parenting and all the prevention in the world dangerous situations can happen. This next section is all about things your children should know if they ever find themselves in a terrifying situation. It’s important to have these discussions with your child because frequently when scared or uncomfortable children will shut down or freeze lessening their chances of escaping safely
1. Scream, Yell, And Draw Attention To Yourself
We spend our lives telling our children to not only respect adults but to also use their indoor voices. Let them know if they ever feel that they are in danger they have full permission to scream and be as loud as possible. Don’t just scream, tell them to yell attention-getting words such as “call 911”, “help me”, and “I don’t know you.” The louder and more dramatic that they are the better chances of them getting help and a predator running away.
2. Have A Safe Word
Having a safe word is very important in every family. What we mean by this is coming up with a word that can be used in a conversation without a stranger knowing that you are calling for help. This comes in very handy when your child may be staying the night at a friend or family’s members house and becomes uncomfortable. In this example, we will pick the word “peanut butter cup.” If your child becomes uncomfortable and is being watched they can call or text you while using this word. Such as, “Hey mom, did you buy me those peanut butter cups I had been asking for?” The person in question wouldn’t think twice but now that your child has said the safe word you can rush to pick them up. Just make sure the word you pick is not something you use frequently as you don’t want to have a false alarm.
3. Car Safety
This can be a broad topic but something children of all ages should know. For starters, whenever you get into a car before you even pull out of the driveway lock the doors. The reasoning for this is that many people that are assaulted or robbed are pulled out directly from their car sometimes in traffic. Having the doors locked will prevent someone from being able to sneak up and pull you from the car. If someone taps on your window do not open your door or window regardless of what they have said.
Always check your backseat before you get in and set your car alarm if available whenever your car is out of your line of vision. In addition to this when walking to your car make sure your keys are already in hand. Not only will this make sure you do not have to look for your keys but a key can be an unexpected weapon when needed.
If your child is grabbed and put into a trunk there are some key things to know. This is a terrifying experience, on top of already being abducted they are now in a small, black space. It is important to show your children the inside of a trunk. All cars made after 2002 are required to have a trunk release to escape from. Show them what this may look like (many of them glow in the dark). In the event of an older car that may not have this release, show them where they can kick out a tail light and then put their hand through so that they can attract other motorists’ attention.
Teach your children of driving age how to jump a battery, change a tire, and do basic repairs in case they are broken down without help. Asking for a stranger’s help can put them at risk and without a working car can leave them vulnerable. Make sure they have a spare tire and know how to change it themselves. Make sure they have a car safety kit including jumper cables inside of the car. Even better make sure they have a portable jump starter in case no one else is around to lend a hand.
Last but not least, inevitably your child will get pulled over at some point in their life. Let them know do not pull over for anyone except the police, regardless if they have a siren or are flagging them down. In the case of a police officer pulling them over they still need to be cautious. Make sure they drive to a well-lighted and public area before they pull over. In addition, before rolling down the window request to see their identification. If you are not sure if they are a real police officer call the police and ask them to verify that a police officer is in that location
4. Self Defense Classes
While we all hope our children will never need to physically protect themselves it is better to have a skill that they will never utilize than to not have the ability to protect themselves. My youngest is currently doing karate and in addition to self-defense, they will gain discipline as well. Between self-defense and getting physical activity, this is a win-win situation. Depending on where you live there are so many different types of classes offered to tailor to your child’s needs and abilities.
5. If They Get Lost…..
In the event that your child ever becomes lost it’s critical that they approach someone for help. We recommend a mom with children whenever possible. Once they are able to locate a safe adult they need to know the following information so that they can get home safely.
- Full Name
- Telephone Number of Parents
- Name of Parents
Child safety has never been more critical than it is now. The key to safety is education. Educate your children as soon as you think they can understand and remind them often on how to keep themselves prepared. Between education and open communication with our children, we can continue to fight and save children every year from becoming just another statistic.
Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions on how you continue to keep your family safe