Safe Haven — Play It Safe
Recent high-profile abductions have generated waves of fear in the United States. The intense media coverage of these incidents is vital for recovery, but it makes it seem as though children are being stolen from their front yards and bedrooms on a daily basis. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the number of abductions in the United States is not rising, but it´s good to take precautions. Regional AYSO leaders should share these suggestions from the NCMEC with coaches, referees, volunteers and parents.
1. Know where your children are at all times. Know your children´s friends and be specific about the places and homes they may visit. Require your children to check in with you as they come and go and when there is a change in plans. Follow the rule yourself so they know it is for safety purposes and not just to “check up” on them.
2. Never leave children unattended in an automobile, running or not. Remind children to never hitchhike, approach a car or engage in a conversation with anyone in a car that they do not know and trust, or go anywhere with anyone without permission.
3. Be involved in your children´s activities. Meet their teachers, coaches, friends and friends´ parents.
4. Pay attention if your children say they don´t want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may indicate more than just a personality conflict or lack of interest.
5. Notice when someone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention. Ask about the person and find out why the person is acting in this way.
6. Teach your children that they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others. Teach them to tell you immediately if this happens.
7. Be sensitive to any changes in your children´s behavior or attitude. Look and listen to small cues and clues that something may be troubling your children. If your children do confide in you, be calm and nonjudgmental.
8. Screen babysitters and caregivers. Check a public registry for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Call references. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was and listen carefully to the responses.
9. Practice basic safety skills with your children. Take an outing to a mall or park so your children can practice checking with you, using pay telephones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who can help them.
10. Remember that there is no substitute for your attention and supervision.
(Information courtesy of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. www.ncmec.org)
Talking to children about safety
- Avoid scare tactics when discussing personal safety. Reassure your child that most people are kind and safe. Those who are not are the exception.
- Teach your child basic sex education, i.e., the areas of the body covered by a bathing suit are private.
- Instill within your child a sense of self-worth at every opportunity.
- Develop strong communication skills with your children. Explain the importance of reporting abuse to you or another trusted adult.
- Establish that sexual abuse is a crime. This gives children the confidence to assert themselves with those who try to abuse them.
- Allow children to express affection on their own terms. Do not instruct them to “Give Uncle Jimmy a kiss” or “Give Aunt Susan a hug.”
- Stress that there should be no secrets from you, especially those involving an adult.
- Stress the importance of reporting rumors or threats of violence, including bomb threats and weapon possession by schoolmates. Reinforce that reporting can be done anonymously, but that school officials must be told for the safety of everyone.
- Above all, encourage children to recognize, trust and follow their instincts — and listen to your own instincts. If a situation or person makes you or your child uneasy, believe in your feelings and act on them.
Source: Child Lures Prevention. For more information, visit childlures.com to purchase the Child Lures Parent Guide.