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What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers

What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers
Keeping Children Safe

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teaching Children Escape Strategies if Grabbed by a Predator
            Two young girls from Evansdale, Iowa have been reported missing on Friday after the two cousins went for a bicycle ride together and did not return home. Their bicycles were found abandoned near a lake. We all hope and pray for the safe return of both little girls. Their disappearance, however, is a cautionary tale.
             My book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers, teaches children how to avoid being grabbed by a potential predator, and how to fight back to escape if they are grabbed. The book even offers strategies for children to employ if they are unable to escape the grab and are put into a car. Parents should practice all the strategies in the book with their children.
            The book stresses using the buddy system, a very good strategy for all children. Children should never go anywhere alone. However, the possibility exists that even the buddy system may have failed the two Iowa girls, as they are both missing.
Both girls were on a bicycle ride together when last seen. What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers explains one particular escape strategy that would be a good one for children to try if they are riding a bicycle when approached by a potential predator. A child  who has been grabbed by a potential predator, while screaming something specific, such as “Stranger 911” or “Help! I don’t know this person”, should also kick, punch, scratch pull hair, wriggle around as much as possible to escape the grasp. If a child is on a bicycle, as the two young cousins from Iowa were when last seen, the child should try to keep holding on to the bicycle. This will make it harder for the abductor to pick up the child.
            Even though the buddy system is a good strategy for children, it can sometimes fail to protect. Children, who are with a friend and are confronted by a potential abductor, may be reluctant to leave the side of the friend. If we are to believe the character, Maverick, from the film, Top Gun, we never abandon our Wing Man. However, former FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt, has suggested that when two children are confronted by a potential abductor, the children should run in opposite directions. The abductor cannot easily pursue both. He will have to choose which to pursue. The other can run for help.
An ideal scenario would be one in which both children, using such a strategy, manage to escape to safety. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. That is why it is important that children be taught the right thing to do whenever faced with such threats.
Picture credit: Anissa Thompson

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It Takes a Village: Failure to Protect the Jerry Sandusky Sexual Abuse Victims

Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, presents a vision for America’s children. It focuses on the positive impact that both individuals and groups outside of the family have on the well-being of all children. Hillary Clinton advocated for a society which meets all children’s needs. Penn State University, in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, failed to meet children’s needs. They failed to protect Sandusky’s victims or even take appropriate disciplinary or legal action.
In the wake of the scandal, the Penn State Board of Trustees admitted failure in its obligation to the university and to the victims. Kenneth C. Frazier, the board member who chaired an investigations task force, said, “We are accountable for what’s happened here. An event like this can never happen again in the Penn State University community.”
One would hope that the outrage over the Sandusky sex abuse scandal and the failure to protect the victims results in our society reaching a point in which we expect the same bravery and sense of responsibility of adults to report suspected child abuse, as we expect of victims in coming forth with disclosures of their abuse.
It does, indeed, take a village. Every adult must claim responsibility for protecting children. Such responsibility begins with learning the signs of abuse and educating oneself, one’s neighbors, colleagues, and family members about child abuse.
Children must be taught body safety. They must be taught about safe and unsafe touches. Children must be taught to whom they can turn for help if they ever receive a touch that makes them feel uncomfortable or are harmed or abused in any way.
My book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers, addresses the issue of good touch and bad touch and teaches children always to tell if they have been abused or fear abuse. Even though my book teaches children to take a pro-active role in staying safe, the ultimate responsibility still lies with adults. It is not the responsibility of children to protect themselves. It is the responsibility of adults to do so.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Showing Your Children Unconditional Love

“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.” (Mitch Albom) – For One More Day
The quote from Mitch Albom’s book, For One More Day, makes an eloquent point about the importance of parents demonstrating unconditional love for their children. It has been said that parents are the only ones who are obligated to love their children, but, from the rest of the world, children must earn it. The take-away from this point of view is that children shouldn’t ever feel as though they are loved by the parents because their parents are obligated to do so by the very nature of the parent – child relationship. It’s also true that children should never be made to feel as though they must earn their parents’ love. Parental love for their children should be unconditional.
Because today’s families often lead such hectic, overscheduled lives, it sometimes becomes difficult for parents to find the time to connect or bond, in a meaningful way, with their children. The parent – child relationship and bonding time should always be a top priority. There are ways for parents to nurture this relationship and show their children unconditional love.
Parents should demonstrate their affection for their children by giving random, unexpected hugs. Hugs are an appropriate and wonderful way for parents to connect with their children on a physical level. Another effective way that parents can demonstrate to their children that they love them and think about them, even when they aren’t together, is to put notes in their children’s lunch box or back pack. Finding a nice note or smiley face is a fun surprise for children, especially small children. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that older children may find this embarrassing in front of their peers.
It’s also a loving gesture to leave a note on the child’s bathroom mirror. Most children start their day in the bathroom and will, in all likelihood, see the note. Seeing a loving note from a parent, no matter how old or young the child is, can create a good start to their day. Teenagers, in particular, often assess their images in the mirror and are often critical of what they see. Leaving notes that remind children of their assets, rather than their self-perceived flaws, is a loving way to build self-esteem. When children are told nice things first thing in the morning, they will definitely know they are loved. This is a particularly effective strategy for working parents who may not see their children before they leave for school.
Parents can also demonstrate love to their children by occasionally surprising them with a small gift when they don’t expect it. Children expect gifts on birthdays and Christmas, but getting a small token gift for no particular reason is a special loving surprise. With that being said, however, parents always should remember that the best gift they can give their children is the gift of their time. Make time for quality family togetherness.