*With the recent scare in Glendale, where a suspect made brazen attempts — twice within 30 minutes — to kidnap children in broad daylight, its time to revisit the conversation on teaching kids about strangers. Fortunately, the Glendale police made an arrest in the kidnapping case two days later, and Lisa Arnold, 52, is set to be in Glendale Municipal Court on attempted kidnapping charges on Tuesday.
Glendale police say they are relatively sure that Arnold is the same person in both attempts, so they are not looking for any other suspects. But they have yet to release a booking photo of her, saying the investigation is still ongoing.
“Any person that’s willing to stop a car … and approach a child is very dangerous,” Sgt. Robert William, Glendale PD
Arnold, and people like her, provide wake-up calls to parents when we least expect it. Though we hear stories about child abduction all the time, we never think its going to hit so close to home, and it shook the small Southern California city of Glendale to its core. In addition, because one of the attempts occurred close to a school, John Marshall Elementary, the Glendale Unified School District has asked parents to remain present whenever children are arriving or leaving the school grounds. And parents are telling their children to hold hands with siblings and others more than usual.
So what do we say to our children, without frightening the heck out of them, about being safe. What words do we use? Do we show them pictures? Which ones? I took at look at several sites and want to pass on some of what I’ve learned. Hopefully it will help.
We’ve got to address questions such as:
Who is a stranger? And what does a bad stranger look like?
Well of course we know that a stranger is anyone we do not know. But the National Crime Prevention Council makes a good point in noting that when it comes to “bad” strangers and “good” strangers. Our young children are thinking that you can tell if someone is bad just by looking at them. They don’t realize that a “pretty” stranger can be a bad stranger just like the not-so-pretty ones.
So when you talk to them let them know:
No one can tell if strangers are nice or not nice just by looking at them and that they should be careful around all strangers.
Now here’s the tricky thing about explaining strangers to our children…
When we talk to them, we can’t make ALL STRANGERS out as “bad.” Why? Because our children may actually need to seek help from a stranger if they get in a bind. Say, a child gets lost: he or she will need to ask a stranger for help. A child gets hurt or bullied, they will need to rely on the mercy of a stranger.
How do we teach our children to differentiate safe strangers?
First, National Crime Prevention Council stresses the importance of telling our children they must go to a “public place” when they need help. Then we show them examples of “safe strangers” such as firefighters, teachers, police officers, librarians and principals.
NCPC also advises…
You can help your children recognize safe strangers by pointing them out when you’re out in your town. Also show your children places they can go if they need help, such as local stores and restaurants and the homes of family friends in your neighborhood.
How do we teach our children to recognize a dangerous situation?
Suspicious behavior is one way. Let them know they should beware of any adult who asks them to keep a secret, or disobey a parent.
This will also be helpful when they come in contact with adults they DO know, but one who may not have good intentions.
Let your child know that suspicious behavior also includes an adult asking children for help, or making a child feel uncomfortable in any way. Tell your child that an adult should never ask a child for help, and if one does ask for their help, teach them to find a trusted adult right away to tell what happened.
Teach your child how to handle a dangerous situation!
“No, Go, Yell, Tell.”
If in a dangerous situations, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can, and tell a trusted adult what happened right away. Make sure that your children know that it is okay to say no to an adult in a dangerous situation and to yell to keep themselves safe, even if they are indoors.
There is even more that parents can do. Visit these sites to learn how to teach your child safety.