This weekend we started some Halloween celebrations, but we did so with heavy hearts and worried minds. Colorado is stunned by what has happened in our community, and it is impossible not to play the “what-ifs” in your mind. What happened to Jessica Ridgeway could have happened to anyone, and it puts an even more serious tone to the already serious issue that someone has been attempting to abduct children up near Arvada. Parents are finding themselves holding their children closer, second-guessing their choices and wondering how to keep them safe.
In light of the Jessica Ridgeway tragedy, 9news and Misty Montano held a #safekids twitter chat with the Denver Police and a specialist from Children’s Hospital so parents could get answers and suggestions on how to keep our kids safe. The conversation was enlightening, interactive, and very informative. The following questions and answers are compiled from that conversation.
1. What should I be telling my kids right now?
- Start talking about safety in general and what are nice people and not nice people.
- The Specifics can come later.
- Be age-appropriate. Young kids = safety, privacy, good and bad touching, good and bad people. Older kids = more specific-
- Ask your children about what they have heard, it is a good starting point. Also review what actions they should take if approached by someone.
- Role play to help them practice.
- Children need to be reassured that parents will help keep them safe.
2. What are the best resources for me to use to help me have a #SafeKids talk with my kids?
3. How do you talk with preschool aged children about this?
- For preschoolers, don't offer more info than they ask. Simple answers, remain calm.
- Teach kids of all ages if a stranger approaches, back away and walk/run the other direction to a crowded area.
- Unless they ask/know specifics, talk to them generally - safety, privacy, good and bad people, strangers.
- Teach them to back away and run to safe/crowded area if stranger approaches.
- Important to warn young kids about "lost puppy" "lost child" "lost wallet" and other ploys predators use.
4. How do you get a 6 year old to stop being so friendly to everyone?
- Sad truth, but kids cannot be friendly to strangers UNLESS you are present. An unfortunate rule you need to make.
5. How do I have a #SafeKids talk when I myself am in shock about #JessicaRidgeway?
- If possible, talk to friends or a counselor yourself prior to talking to your child.
- As parents we need to recognize that we need to take care of ourselves as well.
6. How do I avoid saying too much & scaring my kids too much in a #SafeKids talk?
- It is possible to share too much! Dial down details @ crimes. Honest, but vaque answers. Remember little ears are listening
- Know ur kids well, Teach ur kids gently, Role model for your kids, observe your kids in action and in "what if" role play.
- Turn off the news when kids are near.
- Tell them fighting is not an option. Be assertive about safety.
- Teach alternatives. Run, yell.
- Role play situations and allow your children to show you what they would do. Discuss all options available to them.
- If stranger tries to grab you, yell, kick and FIGHT. But never let a stranger get that close - scream and run away 1st.
7. How do we know who to trust right now when the news is telling us it can be our neighbor or even our family?
- Be watchful & look for changes in behavior as identified by law enforcement. It is a tough question.
8. Is there a way to make a #SafeKids talk fun and interactive?
- Make it a game.
- Discuss safety when you go out with them and do knowledge checks. Let them ask you too!
- Reverse Roles, see what they consider to be dangerous situations. They may come up with some you didn’t think of.
- Children love games and love to win- let them win at safety knowledge.
9. How do I respond to my kids during #SafeKids talk when their response is "I can fight!"?
- Role play gently, show them they cannot get away from you when you aren’t even trying as hard.
10. Should my kids have cell phones no matter their age, just in case?
11. How do you keep children safe when they have additional physical or cognitive challenges?
- Kids with special needs should have frequent and consistent training and supervision for stranger danger.
- Possible use of GPS devices to identify the location of your child and talk with them to the extent they can understand
- Simple things like, locks on gates, chimes on doors, talks with neighbors.
- Tracking devices & more can help w/kids w challenges.
- For kiddos in wheelchairs, whistles, mace, belts into wheelchairs. Harder to abduct a person belted into a wheelchair
- You can register your special needs child as high risk at these links
12. Abduction by stranger is rare, what do I tell my kids about danger from people they may know, even trust?
- Tell children if adult is asking them to keep secrets about something uncomfortable, they need to tell you.
- Be aware of adults spending extra time with one child and buying gifts.
- Ask questions. Tell children if adult is asking them to keep secrets about something uncomfortable, they need to tell you
- Teach kids they can say no even to adults they know. Good touching/bad touching.
- Teach what's abnormal adult behavior.
13. Is there an age when my kids become “Kidnap-proof”?
- Parenting doesn't end with older kids. I still teach my college & grad school kids re campus safety.
- We all need to be aware of safety regardless of our age or the age of our kids. Buddy systems are always a good idea.
- "Kidnap proof" isn't the issue - aware of risk, prepared for safety, and making good choices is.
14. What are some other tips for child safety?
- Put high locks on your door, or key locks with the key put in a high place.
- Be sure front windows and doors have a covering on them.
- Have a friend come over and ring the bell to see if your child will answer the door.
- “Setup” your child in a potentially dangerous situation with a friend that they don’t know.
- Have an emergencey “safe” word that anyone picking up your child must have.
- Set a rule of no secrets EVER.
- Adults should NEVER ask children for help.
- Take a picture of your kids with your cell phone when you go somewhere with a lot of people. That way you have what they are wearing documented.
You can read through the #SafeKids chat here: http://tweetchat.com/room/SafeKids.
The answers in the chat are gathered from the Denver Police Department (@DenverPolice), Harley Rotbarts (@noregretsparenting), Rajean Bloomquist (@rajean), 9 News (@9News), @FamAlert, @maxweb, @SherryLSanders, Gina StAubin (@specialhappens), Lucretia Pruitt (@lucretiapruitt), Vicki Little (@mackidaurora), Marie Folmar (@mackidbroomfield)
Other helpful resources:
For every parent, all we can do is educate ourselves, educate our children, and be safe as we remember Jessica and all the other children that have been taken from their families. My heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of Jessica Ridgeway. Rest in Peace, Jessica.