How to explain abduction without scaring your child
This is what happens
when you don't teach your kids safety rules
My preschooler broke a safety rule that I did not teach him.
How can I explain abduction way he could understand?
We were in a park. I was walking to my car with Dill rolling his bike. Tek and Al were following. It was getting dark. The cars were leaving the parking lot. My phone rang:
- “Is he with you?” my husband asked.
- “Yes, he is.”
- “I mean are BOTH KIDS with you?”
- “What do you mean by BOTH? I have Dill, Tek was with you!” I tried to keep calm. My hands shivered, and Dill looked up at me.
- “Tek not here. He was riding his bike around the playground and now I can’t see him.” My husband was out of breath from running.
Dill and I dropped the bike and sprinted back to the parking lot, yelling and checking everything.
I looked in the bathrooms, on the parking lot, on the playground, on the tennis courts, on the trail, on the field, in the pavilions – everywhere. He wasn’t there. The cars left the parking lot one by one.
- “Should I call the police now or should we make one more round running?” I wondered. One scary thought ran after another.
- What if he’s in trouble? What if he’s suffering? He’s just a little boy. What if I never see him again?”
This is what happened
The phone rang again:
- “He’s here. I found him!” – I could barely hear my husband’s voice over our son crying in the background.
I let the out the breath I’d been holding, and the tears dropped on my cheeks.
We were not idiots letting kids run around the park at night while we checked our social media feeds.
Most parents have some scary moment to remember forever:
Kids run off in an unknown direction with their new friends, ride their bikes way too far, hide in the store, or just walk away without paying attention and get lost.
A break-through moment on keeping kids safe
When we all stopped crying and hugging between the leaving cars, I asked
- “How did you get here?”
- “I was riding my bike around the playground. I was chasing a squirrel. I thought you went to the parking lot,” he said.
He was riding too fast. He went to the wrong parking lot. He started looking for the right one and got lost.
- “Why didn’t you tell us where you were going?” I asked, wanting to kick myself – I hadn’t taught him this rule yet.
2 big safety mistake parents make with young kids
I thought that at 4 years old my son was way too young to be required to share his plans before leaving.
How wrong I was.
Mistake #1: Not teaching safety rules early enough and low level of safety skills were half the problem (you can test your child's safety score here).
Mistake #2: The other half was how to explain the worst safety topic ever in an age-appropriate way without scaring him.
A simple solution for explaining abduction to young kids
Abduction bothers you more than your kids. Abduction by strangers are less common than those committed by people that kids know or "kinda" know.
Related article: Why stranger danger is not working and what to do instead.
The idea came when we were reading a book of classic fairy-tales.
I saw a gingerbread man on a picture singing:
“I can run away from you, I can. Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!” -
- “Do you see the gingerbread man?” – I asked my son.
- “Is he behaving the way he is supposed to be?”
- “No. He ran away from the parents and the fox ate him.”
- “Let’s agree that if you’re going to leave, you tell me before you go, okay? So that if you need help, I’m around.”
We also talked about Little Red Riding Hood, Aladdin, Thumbelina, and Rapunzel where kids were kept somewhere forcefully.
It wasn’t so scary to talk about abduction, mean adults, and dangerous mistakes when it was happening to a character in a book.
Little Red Riding Hood is a perfect conversation starter about breaking the safety rules as well (a girl changed the route without checking with her mom, she left with the stranger, she disclosed her plans and the location of her grandma’s house, and she didn't listen to her intuition about the weird look of the grandma.)
Kids understand and remember safety rules applied to a story.
Don't tell kids everything that bothers you. Instead, simply explain that nothing good will happen there.
Empathize how bad they felt separated from their families and how sad their parents were.
Check how we've used those stories - see the swipe copy for the detailed instructions and examples:
Download the comprehensive swipe copy
"How to teach kids about abduction in a non-scary way using stories, books and cartoons"
An algorithm to use with 3 classic stories:
- Little Red Riding Hood
- The importance of following the safety rules
- The consequences of breaking them
On these examples you will learn how to use almost any story, cartoon or life situation to teach safety.
+ Explain this super sensitive topic in a delicate, neutral way without feeling scared or scaring your child.
Well, instead of dreading teaching this subject,
I am now looking forward to starting it. - Liz T, mom
How to use everyday situations to teach kids safety
When you keep in mind kids’ safety rules yourself, you’ll see examples to teach them everywhere in your life.
The best way kids learn is by playing and experiencing the lessons.
That’s what we do in our training – kids learn how to respond properly to challenging situations while in a safe environment that you can control.
You don’t need to fake any situations. You’ll be able to use opportunities in your everyday life by just paying attention to them, and including stories, games, books, movies, and cartoons you already know.
Enroll in a Free online course for parents of kids 3-10 years old
"Teach Your Child Safety With Strangers (and other people)"
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- Your child to be safe with strangers and other people around him?
- Learn safety skills in an easy, positive, and practical way?
- Be confident and you worry less about him?
Join this free class and go from fear to confidence.
Because when your child breaks a safety rule he didn’t know, it may be too late to teach the rule.
Don't wait until it's too late. Our kids are the most precious things we have - protect them.