This post is by Bernie Carr,
Now that school is back in session for many families, it’s time to update your emergency contact records at school, update your texting tree, as well as have conversations with your kids about safety.
One of the safety measures we used with our kids is the secret family code word.
What is the secret code word for?
In the event of an emergency, disaster or in any situation where you are unable to pick up your child, you may be forced to send a friend or relative they have never met. How would your children identify the person? Here is where the secret code word comes in handy. Have your child ask the stranger what is the secret code word, and if the stranger does not provide the right answer, then get away from that person.
How to create the code word
Come up with the code word together. It can be a funny nickname you call your child that only he or she knows, a word in a different language you both speak, or a favorite character from a book you both read.
Do a bit of role-playing and practice various scenarios until your child feels comfortable asking for the code word.
As you practice the use of the code word with your child point out the following:
- Remind your child not to get too close to the stranger.
- If the stranger does not know the code word, get away from the person right away.
- Tell them not to engage in a conversation where the stranger tries to guess the password.
Does it work?
There have been cases reported in the news where having a code word has saved a child from being abducted. A few years ago, a couple of 8-year old boys in Ogden, Utah were approached by a man claiming to have been designated by their parents to pick them up after a scouting event. The boys asked for the password. When the man did not know the answer, the boys ran away from the man and reported what happened to their scout adviser.
More recently, in Phoenix, AZ suburb, a 10-year old girl avoided being lured into a car by a man who claimed her brothers were in trouble by asking about him code word. She asked for the code word; when he could not come up with it, the potential kidnapper drove away.
In both cases, law enforcement praised the kids for doing the right thing. The parents never thought the secret code word would ever get used but were relieved they had made a plan.
We have used a secret code word in our family for years. Kids as young as five can comprehend having a secret family code word. Some critics may say you can scare the kids this way. I would disagree – I find it helps kids feel more empowered as they feel they are participating in the process of staying safe.
What measures have you used to keep your kids safe? Please share in the comments.
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