Keeping your children safe and away from danger is every parent’s number one priority.
From what to do if they think they’re being followed to the best course of action if they’re feeling unsafe and there are no police officers around, a website has these difficult conversations with your children covered.
Anxious Toddlers – a forum dedicated to giving parents support, advice and guidance – has created a list of seven tips to help keep your child safe when you’re not around.
Anxious Toddlers is a website that helps to support, offer advice and guidance to parents on how to keep children safe
Fortunately, these situations are very rare, but it is always better for you and your child to be clued up just in case.
In one half-hour conversation with your sons and daughters, you can instill into them some basic facts on what to do if they feel unsafe.
1. GET RID OF PERSONALISED ITEMS
The website encourages parents to remove or throw away anything that might give away the identity of a child to a stranger
The first piece of advice tells parents to throw out their children’s personalised rucksacks, lunch boxes and other items that visibly show off their child’s name to people they don’t know.
This is because when strangers know your child’s name they come across as friendly and familiar – and subsequently your child is much more likely to trust them.
The author of the article Natasha Daniels says: ‘Every morning as I drive my kids to school, I see these two very young girls walking to school on their own. From down the street I can make out both of their glittery names on their backpacks.’
2. COME UP WITH A CODE WORD
Code words are important to help protect your child from harmful situations
Having a code word is useful for a variety of situations.
With your children, make up a family code word that is neither too common nor so bizarre that it would be hard to use naturally.
Children can then use the code word in different situations.
For example, if you’ve sent someone to pick up your child – they should be aware of what the code word is so they’ll know not to leave with anyone else.
Alternatively, if a child is at a friend’s house and somebody or something is making them feel unsafe, they can call you and say the code word to you over the phone so you’ll know to get them out of the situation.
3. SAY NO TO ‘BODY SECRETS’
Always teach your children to tell you immediately if somebody has told them to keep a secret involving body parts
When a child is sexually abused, they can often be told not to tell their parents about what has happened to them, and to keep it a secret between them and the abuser.
Teaching your children to never keep ‘body secrets’ is important and they should know to tell you immediately if somebody has touched a part of their body and asked them to hide it from you.
4. HOW TO ESCAPE BEING FOLLOWED
If a car is following your child, tell them to run in the opposite direction – those few seconds might be crucial
The obvious conversation that you should have with your child is to teach them about stranger danger.
More specifically, you should also teach them about the ways in which strangers can look. They don’t always have a rough appearance and can appear to be perfectly normal.
It is also highly important to point out that no matter what a stranger says, you should never leave with them or get into their car. The code word can also be helpful in this situation.
Additionally, tell your child that if they are being followed or chased by somebody, to start running in the opposite direction to the car.
This will buy them a few crucial moments as the car turns around.
5. FIND A MOTHER WITH KIDS IF IN DANGER AND ALONE
A mother with children is not guaranteed safety but often there aren’t police officers or shop owners around
If your child is feeling lost or unsafe, there is no guarantee that there will be a friendly shop owner or police officer around to help.
That’s why you should tell your children to find a mother with her children if they can.
This is not to say that people with children are automatically safe, but this option might just help in a stressful situation.
6. WARN OTHERS IF YOU ARE IN DANGER
Teach your children specific words and phrases that will help arouse suspicion in a certain situation
This tip is particularly useful as we often pass children having tantrums in adult’s arms. In fact, we’ve seen it so many times, a lot of us have become immune to it.
However, teaching your child to scream out words that would alarm others can be very useful if they ever end up in a dangerous situation.
Phrases such as ‘Who are you?’, ‘Help!’, ‘Leave me alone, I don’t know you!’ and ‘Where’s my mum and dad?’ will all arouse suspicion and alert others to the danger.
7. FIGHTING BACK MIGHT BE NECESSARY
Tell your children to ignore the rules and scream things that would alarm others if they are in danger
HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS SAFE – NSPCC CHECKLIST
• Address the risks by talking to your child early on about staying safe. Ask them what they would do if they were approached by a stranger.
• As soon as your child is able to understand, teach them their full name, address and two family phone numbers.
• Teach your child never to go off with anyone, not even someone they know, unless they’re able to contact you to check it’s OK.
• Set boundaries by being clear about any places you don’t want your child to go. Be willing to explain your decision so that your child understands your concerns.
• If they feel uncomfortable or scared at any point tell them that they can ring you at any time. If they can’t get reach you, advise them to approach someone in authority – whether that be a policeman, a shop assistant, a traffic warden, or someone similar, and explain that they are lost.
• Do a trial run to help build their confidence. Let your child take the lead when you’re out together and only correct them if they do something that puts them at risk.’
Lastly, you need to teach your children to be destructive in order to draw attention.
If a stranger tries to take them, tell them that all manners are out of the window – and they are allowed to hit, scream and make a scene in order to attract attention.
Natasha Daniels at Anxious Toddlers admits the ‘chances are small’ of your child being in such a perilous situation, but insists it’s important to make sure they are alert.
She writes: ‘What I can teach my kids in 30 minutes might make the difference between life and death. And for that – it’s worth it.’
A spokesman for child protection charity NSPCC said: ‘Going out without a parent is a natural step for children to take when the time is right, so it’s crucial they feel prepared and confident.
‘Whilst it’s true that most child abuse is committed by someone they know and although abuse by strangers is very rare, the risk is still there.
‘When giving advice parents should not unnecessarily frighten a child. They should put the potential dangers in perspective otherwise it could inadvertently cause a child to feel anxious.
‘It can be a little bit daunting to let them take their first steps outside and alone, which is why we’ve developed a checklist to help parents prepare their children.’