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          Protecting Your Children

          September 10, 2002

          A series of recent high-profile child abduction cases has touched a nerve with parents across the nation. Too many parents think such tragedies only happen to “other people.” That’s not true, and there are steps you can take to protect your kids — without scaring them.

          • Talk to your kids early and often. Teach them to self-protect. Don’t be afraid that you’ll make them paranoid. Children actually feel empowered when they feel understand that they have the power to protect themselves. 

          • Don’t ask children to deal with adult issues. Explain things in terms they can understand, such as good and evil. Don’t share the gory details with them. 

          • Tell your kids to avoid strangers. Adults just don’t ask kids for directions. 

          • While it’s important for children to respect adults and those in authority, give them permission to act impolite, rude, or scream and yell when they feel that something’s not right. It’s OK for them to make a scene or to yell for help, and let them know they will not get in trouble if they were mistaken.

          • Teach kids to yell with specificity: “This is not my Daddy!” or “Somebody help me!”

          • Role play with your children to practice how they should respond.

          • Don't dress them in clothing that has their name on it. When they hear someone use their name, they often believe it's a signal for safety.
          • Teach your kids a code word that only you and they know to indicate that there is possible danger.

          • The number one defense for kids is to run away. They need to run to a public place with a lot of people.

          • Watch your kids! Keep a close eye on them. And don't assume that others to whom you entrust your child are as vigilant as you are. To make sure they are, test it out. Send a friend to pick up your child, for example, and see if the school allows it.

          • Let your child know he/she can talk to you about anything and everything, including body parts.

          • Remember: Pedophiles are sick individuals — but they look just like everyone else. They embed themselves in everyday society. They are not extremists you can spot walking down the street. Pay attention to people who spend an inordinate amount of time with kids, and don't have any of their own. You may be suspicious when you needn't be, but it's better to have "false positives" than to not raise your eyebrows when you should.

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