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It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: What if your child were approached, or worse, abducted by a kidnapper? It’s not something you want to ever imagine, but talking about the possibility (and how to handle it) is an important conversation to have with your child -- just ask Calysta Cordoba of Colorado.
Thanks to the lessons in survival skills her savvy dad taught her, the 9-year-old managed to escape from her kidnapper, who happened to be her former stepfather and an accused child molester. Calysta wisely bided her time until she had the opportunity to slip away from him at a convenience store and call 911. When he tried to get her to leave, the smart girl refused and yelled back at him, and the kidnapper ran off knowing police were on the way; he was caught a few miles away.
The moral of this story is that there are important things we need to convey to our children about staying safe, even if the conversation may seem scary. Here’s how to get started, courtesy of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC):
- Forget about “stranger danger.” Warnings about strangers give mixed messages since most kidnappings or assaults on children occur by people they know. Emphasize that kidnappers aren’t ugly, creepy and mean; they may use friendliness, kindness or gifts to lure kids. The better lesson to teach your kid is to trust her gut and get away or get help if a situation is uncomfortable.
- Make sure your kids know your home and cell phone numbers and address, and that of close relatives if they’re ever lost or in danger.
- Do your children truly know you love them unconditionally? NCMEC suggests having a heart-to-heart to build up their confidence and reassure them of your love, so that if someone tries to convince them otherwise, they’ll know the person is trying to deceive them.
- Practice yelling and running to get help, advises KidPower.org, a California-based nonprofit that encourages children to use their own power to stay safe. Take the time to go over how to hit, pull away and kick to escape. Self-defense courses are an excellent idea for children who are old enough, as well.
- The FBI recommends using a National Child Identification kit so you have your child’s fingerprints, description and DNA sample in one safe place. You should also have recent photos on hand at all times.