What to tell Kids about Stranger Danger
Preventing Abduction and Abuse of Children
Crowds of children on the streets at Halloween time give predators and abductors a target rich environment. Now is the time for parents, guardians, and teachers to review these 12 safety and self-defense rules with children.
1. Child I.D. File and Card
A child identification (“I.D.”) card and home file can dramatically shorten the response time of authorities in finding a missing child. The sooner the information is given to law enforcement, the sooner the information can be disseminated to search for the child.
Two types of I.D. should be maintained. The first is a complete record file that is kept at home. The second is a wallet-sized I.D. card always carried by the parents, and given to anyone supervising a child, such as a babysitter and relatives. Include personal and medical information, physical characteristics, and a recent photograph in both. Include dental records, fingerprints, and DNA samples in the home file. Update both annually.
2. Common Ruses
Predators use ruses to gain the acceptance, trust, and compliance of children. Common tricks and lies strangers use with children include (1) asking for help to find a lost pet, (2) asking for directions, (3) telling children their parents asked them to pick up them up, and (4) impersonating an authority figure, such as a law enforcement officer.
Tell children to watch for these tricks and never to go with a stranger unless the agreed code word (Tip #8) is used.
3. Child’s Body Belongs to the Child
No one has the right to touch the child’s body. Parents should support their child’s instincts and give him permission to say “no” to hugs and kisses from family friends and relatives. This will make it easier for the child to say “No” to a touchy-feely stranger.
4. No Visible Child’s Name on Possessions
The child’s name should not be visible on the outside of backpacks, gym bags, lunch boxes, or clothing. Strangers can use that information to pretend they know him or his family, and use some of the common ruses listed in Tip #2 above. For example, he can greet the child by name and say he is a friend of his mother.
5. Don’t Talk to Strangers
Children should obey these four rules with strangers:
(1) Stay at the adult’s arm’s reach and a little more away from them,
(2) don’t talk to them,
(3) don’t take anything from strangers, even if it’s the child’s, and
(4) don’t go anywhere with strangers.
6. No Secrets
Parents should make an agreement with their child that no secrets are kept in the family. If someone, even if known to the parent, asks the child to keep a secret, the child can tell the person that he doesn’t keep secrets in the family and that he will tell.
Abusers often demand their victims to keep a secret, or threaten to hurt him or his parents if they tell. The child should never agree to the demand or threat.
7. “What If…?” Game
Use the “what if…” teaching game to use children’s spontaneous questions as a springboard for discussion. This game encourages children to talk about their thoughts and helps them come up with their own solutions and strategies to situations, such as abduction and approaches by unknown adults. The goal is to teach prevention without inducing fear or discussing abduction.
The parent could ask, “what if we were shopping and when you looked around and couldn’t find me?” The child could ask, “what if I was playing and a stranger came by?”
Ask the child what he would do to find out what he thinks and discuss possible solutions. Role-play and portray a variety of characters, such as a clerk, customer, store manager, and stranger. Then agree on one solution that seems best.
8. Code Word
The code word is an agreement between the parents and child that if one of his parents should ever send someone to pick him up, that person must say the code word before the child goes with him. If the sent person doesn’t know the code word, the child should not go with him, no matter what. The code word can be a single word, phrase, or sentence.
9. Run from Strangers
The child should never get close enough to a stranger for him to grab the child, or go anywhere with the stranger.
When approached by strangers, the child should always run away. Do it fast and immediately, and attract attention by yelling. Run against traffic so people can see the child. The child can run to and ask any other adult for help, as most people are good. The predator likely won’t chase the child because he doesn’t want to attract attention, and would rather pursue an easier target.
10. Attract Attention and Fight Back
If someone starts touching or grabbing a child, the child should attract attention by kicking, yelling, and screaming. He can yell “He’s not my dad!” “She’s not my mom!” “Stranger, stranger!” and “He’s attacking me!”
The child can physically resist and fight back by biting, hitting, kicking, elbowing, scratching, poking, and doing anything that makes it difficult for the abductor to hold onto him and pick him up.
11. Drop and Hold On
As a last resort, the child can drop to the ground and hold onto something that makes it difficult for the abductor to carry him. It can be a large and heavy object, such as a bicycle, or a structure, such as a pole or railing. Use the following grip that makes it difficult for someone to release the child’s hold: one hand should grab and hold the underside of the other lower arm and wrist, and vice versa.
12. Continually Find Ways to Escape
Even if the child has been abducted, the child should continually search for ways to escape and attract attention.
If in the trunk of a car, rip out wires and break tail lights. Modern car trunks have an interior release tag or handle that can be pulled to open the trunk. Some trunks have rear seats that can be folded down and crawled through. Kick the trunk to make noise. Find tools like a wrench or tire iron to cause damage to the car and make noise.
The child might be in the passenger compartment when abducted. The child should learn how to open a variety of car doors from the inside. The child can force the abductor to crash the car or cause it to bump another car. Grab the steering wheel and move it back and forth, step on the accelerator pedal, shift gears, poke the abductor’s eyes, scratch and kick him, and rip out any wires. Pull the keys from the ignition and throw it out the window. Kick the windows.
In a house, turn lights on and off to attract attention, in a S.O.S. pattern if possible. The child can lock himself in a room, find a phone to call 911, and jump out of a window even if it is 5 to 10 feet from the ground.
Injury while escaping is preferable to abuse and murder by the abductor. Never give up finding ways to escape.
These twelve tips are the essentials of protecting children from abduction and abuse. The beginning of every school year is the ideal time to review safety and self-defense with children. For a more in-depth discussion of these and other tips, read additional articles at