BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Many parents would agree that while the thought of becoming a victim of kidnapping is terrifying, it’s even more frightening to consider the same happening to their child.
According to one source, every 40 seconds, a child goes missing or is abducted in the U.S. and approximately 840,000 children are reported missing annually; the F.B.I. estimates that between 85 and 90% of these victims are children.
So, what can parents do to help their children avoid situations that might lead to an abduction?
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children(NCMEC) recommends that parents sit down with their kids and talk about the subject.
The nonprofit also suggests that parents address the following points during the discussion:
ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO TELL YOU ABOUT POTENTIAL DANGERS- Make sure children know how important it is that they tell you about potentially dangerous people or encounters they’ve faced.
Explain to them that they should pay attention to what people do and how they behave. Parents may want to follow this with a statement such as, “Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go somewhere with them.”
TEACH CHILDREN TO TAKE ACTION IF AN ATTACKER STRIKES – According to NCMEC, 83% of children who escaped their would-be abductors did something proactive, meaning they either walked/ran away, yelled, kicked, or pulled away. So, the best thing a child can do if someone tries to abduct them is take action instead of being passive or polite.
BE SPECIFIC ABOUT WHERE TO FIND HELP- Instead of telling children to talk to an adult when they feel threatened, specify whose help they should seek out. Say something like, “If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a nametag, or a parent with children.” In addition to this, point out local places where they can go for help, such as police stations, fire stations, or other public places.
TEACH KIDS ABOUT THE TACTICS CRIMINALS MAY USE- Sit down with your children and explain what kinds of tricks would-be abductors might use, such as offering money or asking for help.
ENCOURAGE OPEN COMMUNICATION ABOUT WHEREABOUTS – Instead of telling children to avoid talking to strangers when they’re out and about, set clear rules about where your children can go and who they can associate with. Parents could say something like, “It’s important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone.” It can also be helpful to warn children to stay with a group and avoid accepting rides or changing plans without your permission.
Topics like kidnapping and crime can be frightening and the idea of broaching them with a child may be unsavory. But when a child knows what to do in a potentially dangerous situation, this knowledge can save their life.
Click here for additional information about how to discuss the subject of abduction/kidnapping with children.
And, to view tips on how to legally prevent your child’s other parent from abducting them, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.