One of my worst fears as a young parent was that one of my boys would “get lost.” My oldest son wasn’t scared of anything or anyone. He was so friendly and would talk to anyone. He would wander off on me all the time. My youngest son however, never would have wandered out of my sight. He was more cautious.
When Jacob Wetterling disappeard, I got even more paranoid about them getting lost or abducted or whatever you wanted to call it. Jacob was 11 years old and right in between my boys. He lived in the same state and we heard about it all the time. Sadly, he was never found and we still hear about it on every anniversary. It still makes me so sad that this boy was just gone.
So I was looking around on the Internet just really to see what suggestions there are now. Times change, things change but most of these suggestions are still the same. I was searching this subject and listened to a news-clip from Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart who was abducted but returned home safely 9 months later. Most of the suggestions were 1: Tell your child to run away in the same direction they came from. Not to run in the direction they were walking. It makes the perpetrator think they are running home and won’t go after them. 2: Scream LOUD. They won’t want to “cause a scene” and will usually back off. 3: Don’t let them get close enough to grab you and 4: never get in a car with a stranger. Sounds like reasonable advice.
I remember back in my day we were told not to have our kids name on clothing. That makes everyone know their name and will call the child by that name and the child will think they know them. I have to say my boys had their names on their jackets. It was just a huge thing to them to have their Minnetonka jackets with their name on them. What really freaks me out is the number ONE thing that is still used and is the number one thing perpetrators use is the “looking for a lost animal.” STILL, kids fall for that time after time. “Come look in my car, I have a new puppy” still works for kids.
One thing I read on a blog was that one mother said when she took her three kids to a big event such as a fair or carnival or a mall, she dressed them all in the same shirts. That way, if someone wandered off and she was a wreck and officers asked her what the child was wearing, she could point to the other child(ren) and say “that.” I thought that was a really smart thing to do. I’ve seen those temporary tattoo’s that you put your cell phone number on their arm or hand but I’m not convinced that’s a good idea just because anyone can see that. Besides, I feel those are more for kids who get lost, not abducted.
So parents, talk to your kids and give them every scenario. Don’t scare them but prepare them. If someone comes and asks you to help find thier lost puppy, tell them to say, “my dad loves dogs and he’ll help us look” and run home to get your dad. I was watching a very old Opera the other day and people watched as their kids ran off with a stranger at a park to help look for a lost dog. The parents couldn’t believe their kids went with. So, talk, talk and talk to them and make sure they know the more noise they make, the better. Anyone else have any good idea’s???? This really has to be a parents’ worst nightmare.
When my kid brother was 7, he was a wanderer. Wouldn’t show up home from school until 10pm, never bothered to tell us where he was though he knew he was supposed to. One day we all went to the county fair (about 2 miles from home) and he got separated. We knew many of the people there, so we didn’t think too much of it – figured he’d be hanging out with some friend and find his way home. As it got later, we had him paged, searched around, etc.; no luck. Figured he must have gone to a friend’s house temporarily. So hours later, the fair closes and he’s still nowhere. OK, now we’re getting a little worried, because it’s 10, 11pm and this is late even for him. We keep searching until he shows up at home at 2am.
What was his story? He was at the fair until it closed, and then there was this drunk guy who asked him to help him find an open bar. They walked from one bar to the other since most of them were closed. Finally he found an open bar at the far end of town, left the drunk there, and walked home.
We (his teenaged siblings) began to tell him scary but true stories about things that strangers have done to little boys, as his eyes grew bigger and bigger. After that, he was a little less trusting / careless around strangers.
When I was little, my dad used to tell us a story called Dr. Stockingtoe, which was about a boy who got lured and abducted at a fair, and then impisoned, enslaved, and abused. (Apparently my little bro missed that lesson.) It was fiction but it was full of important lessons – don’t accept money, favors, or candy from strangers (no matter how tempting), make sure your parents know where you are at all times, don’t wander around after dark, don’t go inside an enclosed space with a stranger, etc. Although the horrible part of the story would never pass todays’ childrearing standards, I may use it on my daughters because I think it was pretty effective on me and my older siblings.
As far as modern safety guidelines, I like the basic suggestions above, but kids are so darn impulsive. I feel the smart thing to do would be to have such tough penalties for harming children that it would be an extremely rare occurrance. Convicted child molesters should ever see the light of day again – at a minimum.
This is a very interesting story because everybody thinks “It will never happen to me” When I was 7 yrs. old I was walking home from school and this guy in a pick up truck was sitting on the side of the road and when I passed him he said I ran out of gas. Then he says to me would you like to help me? He said I’ll push the truck and you can steer. To a 7yr. old that sounds like a lot of fun, so I agreed. I got in the truck and he started pushing it but the whole time I was looking at him. Then he started to walk towards the truck so I got out and ran, guess what happened after that. He got in the truck, started it and took off after me. I was able to ditch him, I was very very very catuis of everything after that. I don’t know what his intentions where and I’m not sure I want to. So yes it can happen to anyone and anywhere.
Yes, it can happen to anyone, anywhere, but statistics show that it doesn’t. Most child abductions (around 76%) are “family or acquaintance abductions” – estranged/divorced parent, or another family/friend. Only about 24% are true “Stranger Danger” abductions. (http://www.klaaskids.org/pg-mc-mcstatistics.htm)
Why do I say this? Not to diminish the problem, but because I think that we tend to let the press, rather than common sense, guide our parenting. We watch/listen to/read the news, and every day, we are bombarded by the same story and it freaks us out, because if it happened to *them*, then surely…. Recently, here in Iowa, it was the tragic and infuriating story of Jetsetta Gage. When that story broke, there was a rash of craziness in our little town, because her story happened not far from here. The fallout? Suddenly that old man who accompanied his grandkids EVERYWHERE was looked at as a potential kidnapper. Why? Because before this, nobody paid much attention to the grizzled old man with the oxygen tank, sitting alone on the bench at the park or pool. Nobody put together that he was with his grandkids, because they were off playing and he couldn’t. But when the Gage story broke, an email went through this town like wildfire, accusing him of horrid things – watching at the parks for his next victim, paying too close attention to kids, ‘hanging out’ where kids hang out. Well, of course he was. His grandkids were there. But nobody bothered to ask HIM… they just sent out this vicious e-mail. The press (and sometimes regular people) doesn’t consider the collateral damage when they obsess on stories of missing kids – in fact, they DON’T concentrate on them, until the kids are suspected missing under ghastly conditions, or until they’re found dead. And while they’re doing that to garner ratings points, they’re making obsessive, terrified, freaked-out parents of the rest of us. Leading us away from the common sense that we know can save us, and them.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t teach our kids to be careful, pro-active, and how to defend themselves (even if that means to run, screaming, in the other direction).
I guess what I’m saying here is that yes, it’s a problem; yes, it can happen to anyone; but it’s not likely. So look at it like you’d approach any other issue of safety – with logic and common sense. Once panic sets in, the problems are magnified.
Here are online resources:
Nat. Center for Missing and Exploited Kids: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PublicHomeServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US
Klaas Kids Foundation (parents of Polly Klaas started this): http://www.klaaskids.org/pg-prog.htm
Amber Alerts: http://www.amberalert.gov/
Oh hell I went for the SCARE THEM tactic! I didn’t care. There was too much of that crap going around when my kids were little. And probably even worse now. My kids had to be scared in order to keep out of trouble.
We live in a trailer park and have for the majority of their lives. It’s been nice here for the most part but when they were younger (they are now 17 and 21) my ass sat outside in my driveway in a lawnchair when they rode their bikes even. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of little kids I drive by…I am saying LITTLE KIDS ..I look around and wonder where the hell are their parents. These kids look like maybe 5 or 6 if not younger out just wandering around.
I might have been overprotective but I’m going to error on that side.
This world is a damn scary place with a lot of whack jobs out there. I say do what you have to do in order to keep your kids safe and if that means scaring them..then do it. I could have tried reasoning with my son but he’s an animal lover and he would have fallen for that dog trick. NO I SCARED HIS ASS!
Great post. My mom kept a picture of us in a lock box in case, and all our information and told us what not to do and what to do.
That has to be the worst nightmare situation ever. I just can’t even imagine. I think all the things you mentioned are good ideas I think kids being prepared is a really good idea . It’s so sad that we have to be so concerned about this. When I was a kid…. funny now I’m saying that but when I was a kid we use to disappear for hours playing in the neighborhood my mom would whistle she had a really loud whistle we knew dinner was ready. A good reminder to help keep kids safe.
We talk and talk and talk to our kids about the wack jobs out there. It’s just a shame what people do to others!
Agree with educating your children and keeping them “street smart” as much as possible!
I know that my parents always always always reminded me not to talk to strangers or take anything from them when I was little. I can’t even imagine how scary it must be for a parent to lose their child.
Have you ever seen the movie “The Girl in the Park” Joy? It’s about this woman whose daughter is just abducted from a playground and was never found. It’s an incredible movie, extremely sad but wonderful, and I recommend it. Anyway, in that movie they basically showed just how easy it is – your eye is on your bag for one moment and the kid wanders off somewhere and that’s it. Never seen again. I think it’s just about the scariest thing ever.
It’s no wonder that today parents really freak out when they see anyone smiling at their child or trying to play with them.
Speaking of movies, anyone see the movie “M”? An old German-language b&w movie. Seeing the beginning of this movie was one of my early memories. I always remembered the balloon stuck in the telephone wires and the mom calling, “Elsie, Elsie!” to no avail. I probably fell asleep shortly after that, but it made an impression on me.
I hate to have to tell my kids about horrible things like that at a tender age, but it seems most agree that it’s necessary.
My dad also remembers a time when he was about 4 and he was with 2 older siblings, walking through woods, when a man started coming after them. They tried running up a hill, but the man was gaining on my dad (bro and sis were looking out for their own butts). My dad turned around and picked up a big rock and flung it (accurately) at the man’s head, then ran like hell.
Just goes to show you that this isn’t really a “modern” issue. Remember what Jesus said about offending the little children. Are things worse now because we don’t believe in millstones? I don’t know. I just hope I’m able to protect my kids.
We have a pretty good neighborhood where I live and there is always a parent outside watching the kids. There does come a point where you just have to trust that you have taught your kids well and they know how to respond if anything does happen.
It scares me how many parents here have their kid’s names, their sport activities and their school’s all on the rear window of their cars! I mean I could drive up to a kid I don’t even know in his own driveway and tell him: “Hi there Joe. Did you win your last Baseball game? I heard JFK Middle School has a great baseball team!” I would be able to get that all off of Mom’s Mini-Van! Just plain Scary! My kids are always asking me to put stickers on my cars for them and I just can’t do it and I tell them exactly why!
WHEN MY YOUNGEST DAUGHTER WAS A BABY I HAD DREAM AFTER DREAM OF SOMEONE TAKING HER AWAY FROM US AND I WOULD NEVER SEE HER AGAIN. NOW SHE IS 18 YEARS OLD AND OFF TO SCHOOL AND I STILL WORRY ABOUT HER. BEING A PARENT IS A LIFE LONG COMITMENT AND ALONG WITH IT COMES THE WORRING FOR THERE WELL BEING. IT NEVER GOES AWAY!!!