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While you don't want to unnecessarily scare children, it is essential to educate them about abduction, assault and other serious topics. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides resources to help parents talk to their children and keep them safe from harm.What are the most important things a parent should know when talking to a child about safety?
- Don't forget your older children. Children aged 11 to 17 are equally at risk of victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand important safety rules as well.
- When you speak to your children, do so in a calm, non-threatening manner. You do not need to frighten children to get the point across. Fear can be paralyzing to a child and can undermine the safety message.
- Speak openly about safety issues. Children will be less likely to come to you if subjects such as abduction and assault are shrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject matter, they may be more forthcoming.
- Do not confuse children with the concept of "strangers." Children do not have the same understanding of what defines a stranger than an adult does. The "stranger-danger" message is not effective, as danger to children is much greater from someone you or they know.
- Practice what you preach. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice "what if" scenarios.
- Teach your children that it is more important to get out of a threatening situation than it is to be polite. They also need to know that it is okay to tell you what happened without being a tattletale.