Often, when we think about “stranger danger,” visions of grubby, mean-looking men in dirty white vans come to mind. However, the reality is most child abductors are generally pleasant looking and friendly, while exuding a friendly, irresistible charm. They can also be women.

Predators have a variety of lures in their arsenals that are extracted at well-calculated moments. Some of those may include:

  • The Assistance Lure where a friendly looking stranger asks a child for directions or help with finding a lost puppy or kitten.
  • The Candy Lure is designed to have a child reach towards the stranger for a piece of candy making it easy to snatch their arm and pull them close.
  • The Emergency Lure is when a stranger may tell the child that Mommy is sick and wants him to come home. If they are in a store, the predator may insist the building is on fire and coax the child to step outside to be easily grabbed and carried off.
  • The Celebrity Lure is used to persuade gullible children to come with them by using the name of a favorite celebrity or icon such as Kung Fu Panda or SpongeBob.

It’s important for parents to educate their children about stranger danger as early as possible, and teach them life skills they can safely grow up with. However, doing so requires a certain finesse so that you don’t make them afraid of everything and everyone. You just want to make them aware that there are good people and bad people while teaching them how to tell the difference.

  • The first rule is to tell children not to talk to people they don’t know. They should also never take anything from a stranger without your permission.
  • Teach your child their home address and phone number as early as possible. They should also learn how to call 9-1-1 in case of an emergency.
  • Let your child know they should not answer questions from people they don’t know, and refuse to go with them no matter how official or friendly they may appear. Children should understand that when adults really need help they will go to other adults – not a kid.
  • Advise your child to run away or loudly scream, “I don’t know you!” if a stranger approaches them and they feel threatened. They should immediately report the incident to a parent or trusted adult such as a store clerk, policeman, teacher, or neighbor.
  • Don’t put your child’s name on anything that would be visible to a stranger. This includes outer clothing, backpacks, or lunch boxes. If a predator knows a child’s name, he or she can use that to put a child at ease while talking to them. Instead, write their name on the inside of the backpack or jacket where it cannot be easily seen.
  • Develop an easy-to-remember password that your child can remember if an adult (even someone they may know) is trying to take them somewhere. If the adult doesn’t know the password, then the child should not go with them.
  • Teach your child about the “buddy system” and how they should avoid going anywhere alone. There is safety is numbers which is a good rule that will serve them well into adulthood.

If your child should become separated from you in a store, immediately alert the closest employee and ask for a Code Adam. This will cause the store to be immediately locked down and make it easier to locate your child.

If your child is missing from home or another location, immediately contact the local authorities. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children advises every parent to have a Child ID Kit which will help law enforcement when searching for a child. The kit should include a recent picture, detailed physical description, fingerprints, DNA sample, and medical and dental reports. You can find more information on what to include in a Child ID Kit here: http://www.missingkids.com/ChildID

We hope this information was helpful. If you would like information regarding Dr. Daniel’s services that include handling anxiety and developing life skills, please feel free to contact us for more information.

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