As much as we hover and try to protect our children from danger, we still need to teach our kids how to make decisions and be safe when they are on their own. And we need to do this while they are young so that they become more vigilant as they grow up.
One of the basic rules would be to teach kids never to talk to strangers, but this simple trick used by a family in Arizona, USA, may be a step up to further protect your kids. It actually prevented their 10-year-old from being kidnapped.
Mom Brenda James and her daughter Maddison Raines recalled the incident that happened in early November in an interview with Good Morning America. According to Maddison, she and a friend were walking near a park when a man driving a white SUV pulled up next to them. He was shielding his face while telling her that her brother had been in a “serious accident” and that he had been instructed to pick her up.
Maddison asked what the family’s “code word” was, but the stranger didn’t know it. “He just kind of froze, his face. And drove off,” she says in the interview. After the man went away, Maddison went home immediately and told her grandmother what happened.
Her mom Brenda explained that they came up with the code word so her daughter “can show other kids it’s okay to ask that question [because] not everyone is your friend.” She adds, “I think kids respond more to kids than they do adults, and they can understand they can be brave and smart and run.”
Having a code word can be extremely helpful. It not only helps in dangerous scenarios but it can also help your child get out of uncomfortable situations.
To create a code word, choose a word that’s easy enough for your child to remember (keep it especially simple for younger kids) but obscure enough that it won’t be guessed by others. Avoid using your pet’s name, a nickname, or something that the child is known for. Also, avoid popular or favorite characters in shows and movies — even if it’s your child’s favorite, it can become an easy guess for strangers.
After choosing a code word, make sure to test your kids and see if they can remember how to use it. For example, have yaya pick up your child from school and tell yaya that they will not leave until your child asks for the code word. As a precaution, don’t give the code word to yaya just yet, but have her call you when your child has asked for the code word so you can confirm it with your child.
It goes without saying that you should only give the code word to people that have your complete trust. It’s even more crictical that you don’t forget the word yourself (it can easily happen!).
1. Use code words when picking children up from school.
If another person is assigned to pick your child up from school and your child was not made aware of it beforehand, you can tell your child to ask for the code word even if it’s a family member that she knows. It’s an good practice to help your kids learn how to identify trusted people from strangers.
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2. Use code words to signal danger.
If your child is at another place, say a children’s party and she suddenly feels uncomfortable (for example, the other children are being mean to her), she may use the code word to tell you that she wants to get out of there without having to explain herself to others.
3. Use code words as an escape plan.
If the family is out together and dad suddenly uses the code word when some stranger approaches, it can mean that mom and the kids need to run in the opposite direction and get help.
That said, code words are not foolproof, so it’s still important to teach your kids what to do when someone they don’t know walks up to them. The first rule is they should be told not to give any personal information about themselves at any cost. Second, never accept food from strangers. Third, not all nice-looking people are to be trusted. Looks can be deceiving, and a stranger is still a stranger.
Fourth, if your child feels exceptionally anxious about the situation, teach him to be confident enough to shout ‘no’ ‘stop’ and to yell for help. Explain to your child that his voice can get the attention of people who may be able to help. (You can read more pointers here.)
We hear of stories of attempted kidnappings on the news and on social media, and it is enough to make any parent scared. But preparing in advance and having these plans in place can help give you peace of mind.