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Street-Proofing Our Kids

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When a missing child makes the news, every parent has the same thought flash Street Proofing Our Kidsthrough their mind; what if that was my child?  Unbearable thoughts. This is a good reminder that we should all talk to our children about street safety rules.

First, some facts for parents. Most all missing children in Canada are taken by a non-custodial parent who could not gain access through the court system. Random abductions are very rare indeed.  Canada is a very safe and friendly country.  Sadly, most harm that befalls children in our society is inflicted by their family and caregivers, not strangers.
Still, we need to teach our children safety rules and review them a couple of times a years.  Here are the rules every child should know, an abridged list from the Protective Parenting program created by one of my mentors, the late Larry Nissan.
1. I Wonít Go With Someone I Donít Know
This is a rhyme your children should chant in their heads.  Have them say it out loud to you. Have them practice saying it out loud to another adult with assertiveness.  Itís a rule!  Children should not have to decide if a person looks like a nice person or a bad person.  Its not their job to think, judge and assess. Its only their job to follow the family safety rules.  
2. Adults Should Seek Help From Other Adults Ė NOT from Children.
If an adult asks for help, go get another adult to help them. That means that even if they are old and have a cast or crutches and need help carrying their groceries to their car; even if they have lost their kitten and also have a picture of that kitten Ė donít help.  Here is why:  Adults try to trick children, so children donít need to think about how ďrealĒ the problem looks, they only need to follow the family safety rules: Adults seek help from adults, NOT children.  If you are asked for help, tell the adult you will help, by getting your teacher, or parent or some other adult to help them.
3. Never Display Your Name
Donít dress your child with hats and T-shirts with their name on them.  Itís easy to convince a child that the adult knows them by using the childís name.  Put labels on the inside of clothes, out of site, but where they can be found if needed.
4. Family Code Word
Make up a family code word that ONLY your family knows, and keep it in their heads, no writing it down on paper to remember.   If someone needs to pick up your child for you, tell them the password and then create a new one since that one is now used up. Tell your child to always ask for the password if its not the pre-arranged parent picking them up.
5. Take Two Steps Back
Always keep two steps back from a car.  If a car slows down and asks for directions, take TWO STEPS back from the car. You can give driving directions from the sidewalk.  NEVER get into a car for any reason. Even if itís cold or rainy and they can drive you a few blocks home.  Not even if they say your mom was in a car accident and they are supposed to take you to the hospital to see her and she didn't have time to give the code.  Remind them that since these can be tricky it not their job to evaluate the safety of situations, just follow the family safety rules!
6. A Weapon means SCREAM, YELL, KICK AND RUN
Abductors are also cowards (why else would they be doing this?) and even if they threaten you, they will not chase you if you are running through a parking lot or screaming.  If they touch you, make a scene and shout at the top of your lungs:  ďThis is NOT my PARENTĒ.  This is even the case if they hold a gun. They donít want to fire a gun in public and be noticed.



Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of the nationís leading parenting experts. Sheís the author of the bestselling Breaking the Good Mom Myth (Wiley, 2006) and more recently "Honey, I Wrecked The Kids" (Wiley, 2009).  She is host of The Parenting Show on Rogers TV. The media relies on Alysonís comments and opinions; she has appeared on The Montel Williams Show, The National, BTV, and you can find her interviewed and quoted extensively in countless publications including Todayís Parent, Cosmopolitan, Readerís Digest and Chatelaine. Visit her online at


(Published on The Parent Link on May 1, 2009)


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