Even though she was absolutely fine and there really hadn't been anything to worry about, she was where I told her to go, just under the table not in a seat, my brain automatically registered the worst possible thing that could have happened. And you all know what I mean. One of every parents' worst nightmares.
This wasn't the real deal obviously, and I did have a talk with her about hiding from mommy in public places. But at some point, and I hate to say it, many of you will have the same scare. Unfortunately you will, at some point, experience that same feeling of incredible panic that I felt for 2 seconds in Dunkin Donuts. It's not a feeling that I wish on anyone, believe me. But as a parent you need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
You also need to prepare your child. Equip them with the tools they need so that if they ARE ever put in a situation you hoped they won't have to face, they will have at least some idea of what they need to do. Even at a younger age, they need to know this. I went over it numerous times with my oldest. I think I watched too much Law and Order SVU and Criminal Intent and too much CSI and I was terrified of something happening to her.
- Teach your children not to talk to strangers. I know it seems simple and I'm sure a few of you will even be thinking "Well, DUH". But I'm serious. You can tell them "Don't talk to strangers" all you want, but they need to be taught WHY. Because, let's face it, sometimes kids need an explanation and reasoning before they'll care enough to listen, and this is one of those situations where you don't want to just say "Because I said so" and leave it at that.
- Tell your child NOT to be afraid to scream and yell if someone ever tries to take them somewhere and they don't know the person. Tell they to kick and scream and do whatever it takes to try and get away. I told Alanna to stick fingers in eyeballs, scratch at faces, kick at private parts, pull hair... whatever she needs to do.
- Make up a codeword. A word that only trusted family and trusted friends know. Say that you're not able to pick your child up from school, but they're expecting you. You've asked a friend to get them instead, one they might not know well... tell your child to ask them for the codeword to verify that they did, in fact, have your permission to pick up your kiddo. Make sure you tell your child NEVER to give that word to other people, that if it's someone you've trusted their care to, they will know what it is. And if they can't tell them the codeword, no dice. I don't care if they knew and then forgot it... if there is any doubt at all, stay put.
- Help your child learn their home address, home phone number, and your work number. But again, make sure that this is not information that they give to people. Make sure that they know their full name (younger ones might know their first, but not last). If they are ever lost or wander away from you, God forbid, they will be able to find someone who can help them find you. But make sure they know what adults to go to in situations like those. And teach them to dial 911 in emergency situations.
- Always go with your kids if they are doing anything door to door. This means trick or treating as well as fundraisers. Number one, you never know who's going to be out and roaming about. Number two, you really never know who's answering the door.
- Don't ever leave your kids alone out in public. If you go to the bathroom, take them with you. If you don't want them in the stall, have them stand next to it with a foot near the door so you can see where they are. If you're trying on clothes, bring them in the dressing room if you have to.
- Tell your kids NOT to believe ANY adult that asks them to keep a secret from their parents.
- Tell them that if an adult comes up to them and asks them directions to say "I don't know" and walk away. Even if the adults intentions really are innocent, they should be asking other adults. Not your child.
- Teach them about the "Do you want to come and see the puppy I have in my van" or "Do you want some candy" ploys. As stupid and cliche as they might sound, they are that way because they have been used before.
- Even though this one might not necessarily be just to prevent abduction, make sure they know that if someone ever touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to tell someone. No matter what's said to them about it.
- If they go somewhere, don't let them go alone. Tell them not to walk near isolated areas or take short cuts. Always go the normal way and the way that's traveled by lots of people.
- And one of the age old "no nos", tell them that if they ever answer the phone DO NOT SAY "No my parents aren't home right now". Have them say "They can't come to the phone right now, can I take a message."
Alot of these tips can be found on KidSave. Go there to read more and to find out what to do in other situations.
I know it's not something any parent wants to think about. But you need to. In some cases, ignorance is NOT bliss. And you and your child need to have a plan and need to know what to do if they are ever in this kind of scary situation. I pray that they aren't, ever. But you need to be prepared.