I have a special needs kid. Which sounds scary. Sometimes it is. But mostly it just is what it is. He’s high functioning and very, very intelligent. (He’s in kindergarten and reads at a 3rd grade level.) But he lacks the ability to think things through. For example, if he gets frustrated, he’ll hit. In that split second it takes for most of us to think, “If I hit, that will hurt the other person and I will get in trouble,” my son’s mind goes blank and he acts impulsively.
This is where the scary comes in.
Walking to school the other day, I asked him, “If a car pulled up and a stranger told you to get in, would you?” He adamantly shook his head no. I then asked, “What if it was a nice old man?” Without missing a beat, he responded with a shrug and, “Well, yeah. He’s nice.”
What he needs are very specific parameters. And I don’t think it’s just him. A lot of kids need specifics in order to know what to do if something dangerous happens.
Here are a few of our rules to keep kids safe, and I would love to hear yours as well. I’m not an expert, I’m just a mom trying to keep my kids safe. There are SO many different aspects of safety – internet safety, pornography, good touch vs bad touch. These tips are specifically regarding strangers and being lured away.
One important thing to note before we move is that practice, open discussion, and reminders are imperative. Like a fire drill, they need to know EXACTLY what to do in situations so that it comes as second nature instead of them freezing up and not knowing what to do. So practice what they need to say, remind them, and have open discussions with them about how much you love them and that you want them to be safe.
1. “You may only get in the car with…” We’ve told our kids they may only get in the car if it’s family, Designated Person 1, or Designated Person 2. If it’s anyone else, they have to respond with, “Let me go get my mom.” This conversation took us about 45 minutes to go through and it’s been something we discuss regularly ever since. My son, of course, had a lot of, “What ifs” he wanted to go through. One of the ones he mentioned was, “What if my friend is in the car too?” I said, “Is he family?” No. “Is he Designated Person 1?” No. “Is he Designated Person 2?” No. “Then what do you do?” Say, “I’ll go get my mom.” And I explained that what if he’d been taken by a bad guy, and the bad guy told his friend to convince my kid to get in the car.
I went with family and two trusted designated people to keep it simple for my kids. They have three things to go through on the list before they know how to respond. I also spoke with the designated people and they knew they were on the list and were happy to help.
2. An adult should never ask a child for help. I think we’ve all seen that chilling video about a nice looking stranger at the park who tried to lure kids into helping him find his puppy. He asked the parent’s permission first, and he wasn’t really a creeper. He was just looking to educate people. One thing that it’s important for kids to understand is that an adult should never be asking a child to help them find or do or whatever. That’s when the practiced response of, “Let me go get my mom,” comes in really handy.
3. Have a special password. When I was a child, we had a special password. If there was ever something wrong and my parents couldn’t get ahold of us and needed to send someone else to help us (pick us up from school or a friends party or whatever), my parents told them the special password and then we’d know our parents really sent them. It was an easy word that we remembered and never told our friends. We never told anyone. This one can be tricky, and it may not work for all kids. It wouldn’t work with mine, but it might work for yours.
These are just a few helpful rules and guidelines. What are yours? Really, any helpful tips or sayings or reminders to help keep kids safe?