Protecting Your Children

    With the most recent case in California of the missing teen that was abducted 18 years ago, we find the issue of missing and exploited children on the front burner once again. A high-profile abduction or other crimes against children by child predators do place parents’ fears on the front burner. Parents are concerned–as they should be– with the predatory mind of a child abductor. Statistics that point to a reduction or “lesser activity” doesn’t mean you’re on easy street when it comes to protecting your children. The most important people to parents are their children; therefore, protecting them is not based on a national average nor is it an option.   When a parent relaxes the restraints of parental protection, the children notice it almost immediately, and that is when the children and the parents can fall in to a false sense of security. It only takes one case to make national headlines for fear to strike in the heart of a parent. Balancing our fears as parents is crucial to our everyday family activities. It is a very difficult task when we want to make sure the appropriate message is sent to our children in a clear and decisive manner.
    We do this through educating our children on the approach of communicating with anyone they do not know. Using the word“stranger,” as in “Stranger Danger,” has became very clichéd and fairly common when talking with our children. It may be easier to break down the terms in a way that shows a major concern, but not a constant fear at every stop. Make statements, such as “someone you don’t know,” and not always “stranger,” or “keep a long distance away from someone you don’t know.” A stranger is only a stranger once in the eyes of a child. Give your children actual scenarios in discussion and see exactly what they would or would not do. Teach them that instinct will be their best asset in keeping them out of harm’s way. Children can act on instinct just like they do when the see a hot pan; they know to stay clear. Remember to keep it simple.
    The role of law enforcement in schools is one of an informational resource to educate students on the mind-set and criminal behavior of a child predator. The older the students get, the more savvy a child predator has to become in trying to?sway the awareness the students have been taught. As law enforcement we try to build on the grass roots that the children should have been taught by their parents at an earlier age. Law enforcement can reinforce what each student should already know, but it is vital that parents play an active role in their child’s life from the start. Students have access to law enforcement when they have felt, or feel uncomfortable in any situation–as well as when they are, or could be dealing with a child predator suspect.     One of our roles as law enforcement officers is to provide support, education, and enforcement where harassing and/or life threatening circumstances involve the children of our communities.
    A significant drawback about our children as they become more entwined in the everyday fast-paced activities is the lack of maturity they may show in making decisions. Each time a child takes a step toward maturity they become more confident with their ability to protect themselves in bad situations. In reality, they may not allow consideration for size, location, or structure of an individual wishing to harm them. This can be an obstacle for parents to overcome with each attempt to explain the seriousness of children venturing out on their own. As we allow our children to step out on their own, we try to prepare them in a way that builds their confidence in making decisions so they will use good judgment around the clock. A child left home alone is in a secure comfort zone and could feel untouchable by the ills of society. While we would all like to believe our children our safe, this at a minimum couldn’t be further from the truth. Children interacting with strangers while a parent is not around can cause devastating outcomes. A predator can pose as anyone in an attempt to lure children into danger.
    Out in public our children tend to drop their guard when accompanied by friends or when visiting familiar places. This complacency can create additional risks for their safety. Recreational activities sometimes trigger a lack of attention to details in one’s surroundings. During those types of activities, we all have a tendency to enjoy what we are doing so much that we let our guard down; and our children are no different.         As our children get older, their confidence grows stronger, even more so when they are with friends. While attending high school, the challenges are still there. There are many things that peer pressure and a sense of wanting to belong (or be a part of) will cause judgment to lapse. This, in turn, will reactivate the “parental radar” in an attempt to detect similar warning signs that we had with our children in the early years. The downside is, however, that the older children will now show little compliance and more resistance. At this point it is no longer a learning session for the older children, but a question and answer session. Some children at this age may even feel like this is a testing session with their parents. One way around this could be a family meeting with guidelines in place. Give a certain reasonable amount of time to issues of safety as it relates to the children. As a parent we can have our say without rebuttal, but that does not promote a positive listening experience for a child.       Remember, however, that there will be times when a discussion about the safety of your children should be non-negotiable. As your child experiences this independence by walking to the store or to the house next door without your direct supervision, they will feel confident and believe they truly accomplished a big step. Praise them for being safe and returning in a timely manner.
* A description of your child (clothing worn, personal items they may be carrying)
* Age height, weight, sex, eyes color etc)
*When and where they were last seen The most recent picture of your child you can find
*An accurate description of the places your child likes to go, the people they like to meet, etc.
Then, organize teams of people to help search the area. If you find any clues don’t touch them, but instead mark the place and tell the police what you have found. AmberAlerts and Electronic Billboards are a great tool to disseminate urgent information to the public as this could be the difference in the safe return of a child.
When we look at the overall picture of incidents involving child abductions, most children were abducted by someone they know. It’s usually by another parent or a care giver, such as a babysitter. These cases are the most common, however, it does not negate the seriousness of the predator-abductor of a child. Schools today utilize counselors to educate and assist our children in a time of crisis. Crimes against children victimize entire communities. The ultimate crime is the crime that will affect a parent on a personal level by harming one or more of their children. You don’t have to teach children to be scared, just teach them be to be ready at all times. While the schools can add to the foundation of what parents teach their children, parents should not depend on the schools to do it for them.
If you think your child is lost or has been kidnapped, immediately contact your local Sheriff or Police Department and be prepared with the following information:
• Physical information of your missing child
Then, organize teams of people to help search the area. If you find any clues don’t touch them, but instead mark the place and tell the police what you have found. Amber
When it comes to the education of safety with your children relating to abductions and their recreational activities, the parent is utimately responsible. We all hope a crisis never occurs in our lives, but the most important thing any parent can do is be prepared.

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