Well it’s that time of year again. The time of year when parents get excited about seeing their beautiful, amazingly well mannered, and extremely tidy children head back to school! For all the rest of the parents, it’s time to jump for joy that you can now get some quiet time in your life and maybe even knock off some of the things on that ever increasing “to do” list. Of course you don’t do that “jump for joy” thing in front of the kids, that’s just mean. You do it outside in the front yard just as the door closes on the bus (because it embarrasses your kids, and that’s just funny!).
Seriously though, it can also be a trying and emotional time too. Not just for the children, but for parents too. Those children we love so much can experience a range of emotions from ecstatic excitement about seeing old friends, meeting new friends, and the adventure of a new school year to being so nervous about those same things that they throw up before getting on the bus every morning for the first two weeks of school (like my little brother – well MOST of the time it was BEFORE he got on the bus).
We parents can get just as emotional. Will our babies be ok? Will they make new friends? Will their teachers see all the potential in them that we do? Will they have to put up with all the aggravating things we did as children in school? It can be tough, even though “our babies” aren’t babies at all anymore.
Well, as a teacher of self-protection, a step-dad of 6, and a granddad of several beautiful babies, I want to offer two simple tips to help keep YOUR babies (or grand babies) safe.
We all know how easy it is for your child’s stuff to get mixed up with all the other children’s stuff. Backpacks, book bags, shoes, coats, hats, and so on can easily get picked up by other kids, especially in those first confusing and chaotic weeks of the new school year. I’m not saying that anyone is STEALING stuff, it’s just easy for everything to get mixed up. And those poor teachers trying to keep order AND teach (especially in the lower grades)…really, it must be like trying to herd cats for 8 hours a day!
So what do we well-intentioned parents do to keep our child’s stuff from accidentally going home with some other kids? Simple, we put their name on EVERYTHING. And not only do we put their name on it, we make it BIG and easy to see, right? Surely enough, that sounds like a great idea (even more so when you’re buying your kid’s THIRD backpack in a month!). But it can actually be a terrible mistake.
It is very easy for a criminal, a kidnapper, a child abductor to gain the trust of your young child by calling your child by name. “Hey Johnny, I’m your mom’s friend from church. Your mom is having some car trouble and asked me to pick you up for her.” Of course the bad guy can see “Johnny” Sharpied on your child’s backpack, hat, and notebook.
To your child, this man must be safe. “He knows my name, he said he is mom’s friend from church, and he’s taking me to my mom.” It is a VERY reasonable line of thought for a child. So, let’s do what we can to take away this trick from a bad guy.
Tip #1 – Don’t write personal information on the OUTSIDE of your child’s belongings. Put it on the INSIDE so if it is lost or accidentally picked up by another student/teacher/parent. You might even want to put YOUR phone # with your child’s name so whoever finds it can contact you about it.
But you still want your child’s belongings to be easily identifiable, right? Of course you do. So instead of putting your child’s name on the outside, get crafty with your child and have some fun putting his or her favorite design or cartoon character on everything. Colored sharpies and fun stickers or patches can make your child’s belongings very identifiable to them and also very easy to describe to teachers or other parents. “I’m looking for Susie’s backpack. It has Darth Vader and purple unicorns on it.” Easy, right? Be creative and have fun with your child by personalizing all of their stuff with a common theme (like Darth Vader and purple unicorns). But remember, put their name and any of your contact information on the INSIDE!
OK, I’m sure you can see how tip #1 can take away one of the tactics used by people who might want to harm or take your child. But I want your child to be as safe as possible and I want YOU to have as many tools in your “safety & security toolbox” as possible. So here is:
Tip #2 – Set up a PASSWORD for your child. I’m not talking about something for their laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is much more important. Let’s use a similar scenario as in tip #1, but of course the bad guy (or girl – remember, women abduct children too) doesn’t know your child’s name because it isn’t where they can see it.
“Hi honey. I’m Julie. I work with your mom. She has to work late, and since she trusts me so much, she asked me to pick you up and take you home, ok?” Once again, this could sound very reasonable to a young child.
It would be easy for the child to see how safe “Julie” is, since she introduced herself, she works with mom, AND mom trusts her A LOT! But we want it to a little harder to fool your young child, so make sure you set up a password.
Your child’s answer to “Julie” – “Hi Ms. Julie. What’s the password?”
Julie – “The password?”
Your smart child’s thoughts – “Mom & Dad told me if they ever sent someone else to pick me up, they would know the secret password. They also said if that person DIDN’T know the password, I should start screaming for help and run away to find a teacher, police, or some other adult I trust.”
Your smart child’s actions – runs away screaming that a bad person is trying to hurt her!
Make your PASSWORD something simple, like your child’s favorite food, favorite superhero, or favorite Disney character. Tell them the person only gets ONE chance to give the password and that a GOOD person will know the password immediately (with no hints needed)! If the person doesn’t know it immediately, then get away and get help. Remind your child each day before school, or any other activity where they will be away from you, what the password is and what they should do if someone want to take them somewhere but DOESN’T know the password.
There’s two very simple things you can do to keep your child safe. As in every class we teach at LaBCaF,LLC our goal is NOT to frighten you, but to give you the tools to make yourself and your family safer so you DON’T have to be so fearful. And simple tips like this can be the one little thing that spoils a bad guy’s plan.
Please share this with your friends who have children and with your family members who have children. No matter how messy, noisy, or frustrating those kids can be, we always love them and always want to protect them (even when they’re old enough to have their own babies)! Love them and keep them safe always.
To learn more, get on our mailing list and consider coming to our classes where there’s LOTS more useful, practical, and simple ways to keep yourself and your family safe.
Until next time,