The biggest myth about child abduction is that the dangers to children come from strangers. Here's what to know and how to talk to your child about the real threats around abduction.

Women searching in woods
Credit: Yvetta Federova

Educating your child is the best way to keep them safe from abduction. The best place to start is by choosing opportunities or "teachable" moments to reinforce safety skills. For example, if an incident occurs in your community, and your child asks you about it, speak frankly but with reassurance. Explain to your children that you want to discuss the safety rules with them, so that they will know what to do if they are ever confronted with a difficult situation. 

Still not sure how to start the conversation? Consider this your cheat sheet:

Tips for Talking to Your Child About Abduction

  1. Don't forget your older children. Children aged 11 to 17 are equally at risk to victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand important safety rules as well.
  2. When you speak to your children, do so in a calm, nonthreatening manner. Children do not need to be frightened to get the point across. Fear can actually work at cross-purposes to the safety message, because fear can be paralyzing to a child.
  3. Speak openly about safety issues. Children will be less likely to come to you if the issue is enshrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject matter, they may be more forthcoming to you.
  4. Do not confuse children with the concept of "strangers." Children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might. The "stranger-danger" message is not effective, as danger to children is much greater from someone you or they know than from a "stranger."
  5. Practice what you talk about. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice "what if" scenarios.
  6. Teach your children that it is more important to get out of a threatening situation than it is to be polite. They also need to know that it is okay to tell you what happened, and they won't be a tattletale.

The Most Important Things to Explain

  1. Children should always check first with you or a trusted adult before they go anywhere, accept anything, or get into a car with anyone. This applies to older children as well.
  2. Children should not go out alone and should always take a friend with them when they go places or play outside. It's okay to say no if someone tries to touch them or treats them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, and to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
  3. Children need to know that they can tell you or a trusted adult if they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
  4. Children need to know that there will always be someone to help them, and they have the right to be safe.

Tips reprinted from "Know the Rules...General Parental Tips to Help Keep Your Children Safer" from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children  (NCMEC)

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