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Summer’s Over; Tips to Keep Kids Safe

05/09/13 Author: Brent No Comments

By Brent

It’s an annual ritual.

Parents pack lunch boxes, new backpacks are filled with all the supplies young students needs to make their way through the day and drivers and kids are reminded to use extra caution on the roads near schools.

But with the dawn of a new school year, parental anxiety over child safety peaks.

And for good reason.

Just last June, a mother left her 4-year-old son inside a parked car as she walked her daughter to Coe Elementary School. When the woman returned, she noticed a man walk abruptly from her car to another one parked nearby.

It wasn’t until later that her son told her the man had tried all the doors, attempting to get inside.

Police were unable to find the man, but the incident no doubt left a lasting impression on the mother.

While it is not illegal to leave a child in a parked car as long as the engine isn’t running, it’s never a good idea to leave your child unattended at all.

That incident was just one of a handful of attempted child abductions in the Seattle area last spring.

In May, a 2 ½ year-old boy was taken from a drop-in social-services provider for homeless women and families. After they were called, police found the child with a 33-year-old mentally ill woman in downtown Seattle.

Only days later, a 4½-year-old boy holding his aunt’s hand at the corner during the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event at Seattle Center was grabbed from his aunt’s grasp by a stranger, who was quickly confronted by the boy’s uncle. That stranger, who was later caught by police, was charged with second-degree kidnapping.

Even though the number of children abducted by strangers is infinitesimally small, less than 0.2 percent of the 200,000 children abducted yearly, it remains a parent’s worst nightmare.

The single most important thing to remember when teaching your children about what we call “stranger danger” is to instill confidence in children, not fear.

First, you want to equip your child with the knowledge and strategies they need to protect themselves.

First and foremost, children need to understand which strangers are dangerous and which ones are not. Children need to understand the difference between good and bad strangers in terms that a child can relate to.

This is important so children understand where and to who to turn if they are ever lost or feel scared, threatened, or if they think someone may be following them.  “Good strangers,” of course, include people like police officers, security guards, teachers and store clerks.

On the other hand, in many situations where a child might be approached by a bad stranger — in a park or on the street — those easily identifiable people may not be around.

If a child is approached by a stranger who tries to lure or physically pull him or her into a vehicle, off the playground or into any area away from the child’s safe environs, the best thing a child can do is get the attention of other adults — by running to the nearest home, or making enough noise to be heard.  Adults will respond to a child in distress, and the wrongdoer will usually become nervous and disengage if other adults are aware of their presence.  It is appropriate to tell children that this is a situation where it is okay to hit or strike someone if they are attempting to take you somewhere you do not want to go.

Other tips for children to keep themselves safe:

  • Know their address and phone number.
  •  Use the buddy system; avoid walking anywhere alone.
  •  Trust their instincts: if they feel they are being followed or something is not right, seek help immediately.
  •  If a stranger approaches, a child does not need to speak to him or her, and a child should never, ever approach a stranger in a car. Just keep walking and do not accept candy or any other items. Never walk off with a stranger no matter what he or she tells you.
  •  If someone is following a child, the child should remember the license plate of the vehicle and immediately tell a trusted adult.
  •  If a stranger grabs a child, the child must do everything to stop him or her from pulling him or her into a car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite and scream. Do whatever it takes! If someone is dragging a child away, the child should scream, “this is not my dad,” or “this is not my mom.”

The return to school should be a happy time for children and their parents – new friends, new experiences and new things to learn.

By following these tips, a child can have a safe, secure and, most importantly, fun school year, and parents can rest assured their children will come home to tell them about it all!

 

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