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Be street-smart and protect your kids
Advice and precaution to avoid abductions

The recent headlines on sex offenders and abductions reminds parents, grandparents and other caregivers of their worst nightmares. If you're not around, even for a moment, and a stranger approaches your child- would your child know what to do?

There are precautions you can take as a parent and caregiver and information and skills you can teach your child to prevent an abduction. Former FBI agent Clint Van Zandt lectures on child and family safety and offers the following tips for you to share with your children:

Setting the stage
It is very important to approach the subject of safety in a non-threatening way. We do not want to make children fearful of potentially dangerous situations or people in general, but we do want to teach them to be cautious and to be able to recognize when something may be wrong. The key is to help children feel empowered and to encourage them to develop and trust their intuition. We want to teach them to be able to talk to you, their caregiver, when something is bothering them. Open communication between parents and children is one of the most important aspects to protecting your child from predators.

10 safety tips every parent should know:

  1. The key is communication. It is important to talk openly with your children about all safety issues, including what to do in a potential abduction situation.

  2. Knowledge is power: Talk to your children about the rules pertaining to strangers. Let them know a stranger or predator looks just like any other person and will use any number of ways to lure a child. Remember, the vast number of children who are victimized know their assailants.

  3. Know the common predator lures: pretending to look for a lost pet; asking the child for directions; giving or promising candy and/or money if the child will go to their car; and, threatening to hurt family members if the child does not comply. When your child hears this, know that it's time to run!

  4. Never label clothing, backpacks, or other personal items such as jewelry with your child's name. A predator will use this information to try to gain your child's trust. (Place the label inside the object and/or use the child's initials or some design for easy identification.)

  5. Give your children instructions on what to do if they get separated from you in a mall, supermarket or any other public place. Tell them to first find a mother with children or any woman and let them know they are lost. Also they can go to a check-out counter, information desk, or approach a police officer.

  6. Make sure that your child knows his or her full name, address, and phone number and the phone number for the place where you work or how to contact you. They also need to know how to dial 911, make collect calls, and dial the operator on a pay phone.

  7. Know where your children are at all times, and keep a list of their friend's names, addresses and phone numbers and remember to update your children's records including a photo every 6-12 months. Be aware of overnight parties unless you personally know and trust the teens and adults living and having access to that home.

  8. Trust your own instincts- if you don't feel good about a person, keep your child away from that person.

  9. Practice, practice, practice: Going over this information once with your children is not enough! You need to continue to rehearse and "role play" to make the learning permanent so your child can react properly when under pressure.

  10. If your child is missing, try not to panic. First, check everywhere in the house, then check with your neighbors and your child's friends. If you still cannot locate them, call the police immediately. Remember, there is no waiting period required to report a missing child to the police.