real life

How to kidnap-proof your kids

Are your children kidnap-proof? It takes more than 'stranger danger' talks to keep our kids safe these days. Each week we hear news reports about strange vehicles spotted around schools. Most of the time the children manage to run off. When strangers do attempt to take our children, many fight off their would-be abductors.

Some don't.

Australian parents are still disturbed by the abduction and murder of Daniel Morcombe in Queensland. Most high-profile kidnapping cases are overseas...Madeleline McCann, James Bulger, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in the UK. We all know how these cases ended up. But Daniel was just so close to home.

There isn't a single parent who doesn't wonder how they can prevent a similar fate for their child. Thankfully there are some simple steps we can take to kidnap-proof our children as much as humanly possible:

1. Supervise

You can never be too careful when supervising your children. At the park, at the shops, to and from school, at family functions...you must know where your kids are at all times, particularly when they are aged ten or under. Make sure they are used to holding your hand, of walking beside you. Too often we see parents walking ahead of their children, in a rush to get to their next destination. Be late. It doesn't matter as long as your kids are safe.

2. Teach them your number

From the age of 4 your children can learn your mobile number. Make it fun, a game. Teach them the first four digits, then the next three, then the next three. If they become lost or can't see you tell them to find another mummy and tell them your mobile number.

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For older children, teach them your phone number and address.

3. Remove yourself from uncomfortable situations

The Daniel Morcombe Foundation focuses on teaching children how to react in uncomfortable situations. All to often the danger exists closer to home than we realise. If children feel uncomfortable in any circumstance, they are to remove themselves from the situation. They don't have to kiss anyone hello, sit on the laps of relatives and friends. They are in charge of themselves and they get to decide what they are comfortable with.

4. Never talk to strangers

And go much further than this. Strangers might say mum or dad has been injured and has send them to pick them up. They might tell other lies. Don't believe them. Unless mum or dad has told them of an arrangement ahead of time, never believe a change in plans unless told by a trusted person.

5. Trusted people

Explain to your children who trusted people are. Grandma, Aunty Marina, their teacher at school while on school grounds and mum and dad. Make the list small. Never deviate from it.

6. Self-defense classes

Kids martial arts classes often include how to escape the grip of an adult. Many stage fake abductions and teach the kids to kick and fight and yell and scream. Practice at home. You'll be happy you did.

7. Practice

Practice these steps together as a family. Yes it's sad to ruin a child's innocence but it is well worth it and this advice can assist them into adulthood. If someone makes you uncomfortable, get the hell away from them.

8. Don't walk anywhere alone

Teach children to always wait for an adult to take them to where they need to go. They are never to walk anywhere alone. This includes when their older. They need to take a friend or sibling, or wait for you to get home.

9. Who are your kids spending time with

As children get older teach them appropriate ways to meet new people and safe places to get to know them. Keep the dialogue open with no anger or judgement. Keep it chatty. You want to know who your kids are spending time with.

ITV Daybreak in the UK recently conducted an experiment in child abduction that was so traumatic, many parents involved asked for it to be stopped.

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In association with Kidscape, ITV Daybreak instructed parents to arrive at a park and then step back and let them play. They then sent in an employee, a man, and he was to try and coerce children to follow him to his car.

It took him 90 seconds to. The footage is chilling.

Out of the 9 children who were approached, 7 cooperated with the stranger.

Friday 6 September is White Balloon Day, Braveheart's signature event held annually during Child Protection Week to raise awareness about child sexual assault and help empower survivors to break their silence. This year the goal is to raise $500,000 to help make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.

White Balloon Day originated on October 20, 1996. On this day, 300,000 people gathered with white balloons and white flowers in a show of public sympathy and support for the parents of several young girls who were either murdered or missing at the hands of notorious repeat sex offender Marc Dutroux.

We all want our children to enjoy their childhood however just as we teach them to be careful not to climb too high in case they fall, to hold your hand while they cross the road, we also need to teach them about this danger.

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For more tips on how to keep children safe visit the White Balloon Day website or Facebook page.

The Daniel Morcombe Foundation continues it's excellent work and is a fantastic year-round resource for parents. You can visit their site or Facebook page.

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