Monday, May 13, 2013

Kidnapped in 60 seconds

There's been a ton of media coverage lately about three young women in Cleveland who were kidnapped and held in captivity for an entire decade. Today, these young women are alive and back home where they belong, but one common detail about their kidnappings is that each girl was offered a ride by their captor leading to these horrific abductions. Each trusted a person who turned out to be evil and malicious. Each lost their innocence in the 60 seconds it took to drive off with this man.

This tragic detail really stuck with me, and for the first time in my son's almost 7 years of life, I spoke with him about the strangers in the world who might want to harm him. I always wanted to keep him from this discussion as if I'd be preserving his innocence. I now realize that what matters most is preserving his SAFETY.

Here are some basics when addressing this tough topic with kids:

Keep it age appropriate: you know what details would cause your child the most anxiety. For me, I knew my son could understand "fear of things" so I used his fear of spiders to organically bring up the conversation. I mentioned to him that he often screams about spiders to the point of scaring our neighbors. I explained that this kind of scream was useful and it's what I wanted him to do if ever a stranger tried to grab him... snatch him... take him. I reminded him that a stranger is someone who might say they knew him, but didn't really and so he should never allow himself to be touched or taken by anyone strange or new to him. He should instead scream "HELP" as loud as possible.

Keep it brief, but impactful: I didn't want to dwell on the scary scenarios, but my tone was serious. I asked my son to look into my eyes and to listen carefully. I wanted him to process my words fully. My deepest hope is that he did.

Keep yourself open to this tough topic: I reminded my son of something a doctor once said to him that has really stuck with him, "no one can touch your private parts... only a doctor or a parent (with your permission)." I asked my son to remember this and to please share with mommy if ever anyone tried to touch him in a way that was uncomfortable. This didn't mean they were trying to snatch him, but it could mean that they were playfully touching him in an area he knew they weren't allowed to (again, this being an area of his body that only doctors could touch with his permission and parents present).

These three tips are meant to open up a dialogue that must take place. Innocent children are sadly tricked into trusting, so the greatest lesson to teach our children is to be alert, to remember your talks and to communicate with you if they ever feel concerned about a time they've interacted with another adult. My hope is to empower children to stand up for themselves and be confident in their "instincts" which for kids is better characterized as "feelings" and the bottom line is that no one should ever make them feel uncomfortable.

Have you had this tough talk with your children? 
Have you warned them about "stranger-danger"?
Please share your tips and thoughts below...


  1. A friend of mine (a LAPD detective) suggest teaching our children to yell stranger. If they get lost staying in the last place they were with the parent. Never to go with store employee I or a solo police officer. Predators dress up and cops must travel in pairs. The last few things are for older children. But my discussion with my two littles (3 and 4) was similar to yours.

  2. Great tip Danielle! Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. ... a few other tips from the HerMama's Facebook FanPage:

    Have your children yell: FIRE!

    Create a code word that only your child knows, that way, if ever a new person has to pick them up they can ask that person for the special code word. This could work with older children, for sure! My little ones might not be able to keep a "code word" a secret for too long!

    Thanks to all for these great TIPS HerMamas readers!


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