The Cleveland kidnapping leaves many parents wondering how to talk to their kids about predators. Dr. Lawrence Balter offers suggestions on when to begin and how to proceed.
We should start with what the children know. Never offer too much information because it might alarm a child who is not ready to hear many details. The idea is to help them become street smart not to scare them. For young children, the risk of abduction is minimal because they should be under constant supervision. When a child is old enough to be off on her own, then it is vital to discuss potential perils.
At the very least, parents should help kids hone their antennas for situations and people who create suspicion. I call this “Red Flag” awareness. Kids know when something is not quite right and it makes them feel “creepy.”
Also, I advise that parents rehearse scenarios with children. Adults normally don’t ask children for assistance. A child should avoid getting into a car no matter what story they are told. An adult might say, “Help me find an address.” “I am a doctor and there is pretty sick little girl I need to find…” There are numerous ploys predators use to entice children. It is important for children to know some of these techniques.
You should give your kids permission to be rude. If someone gets too close or makes a strange request, it is okay to just leave the situation. A child need not be polite. If someone attempts to grab a child, instruct her to scream and run away. She can call attention to her plight by yelling, “Help, he is not by parent.” Or, “This person is hurting me, help me please.” Adults are more sensitized to these sorts of events and will likely come to the rescue or call a law enforcement person.
Kids should travel in packs as much as possible. And they should check in with you by phone on a regular basis.
An article in The Daily News contains quotes of some of my advice.
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