Here is an outline from my recent short video on what to tell your child about being safe from abduction:
1. Do not teach your child to be scared. You do not want to turn your child into someone paranoid and scared of everyone. The world is good. People are good. Just tell them that 99.9% of people in the world are very good people and just to watch out for the "very few people who might be bad."
2. Do teach your child the proper "mindset". First, try never to use the word "stranger" especially with young children. What is a stranger? The world is filled with them. You definately do not want them to think a stranger is a man that wears a hoodie with a beard and sunglasses. The fact is far more children are hurt or abducted (or abused) by people they know and trust. Second, you want to teach them the number one weapon they have is "distance". Distance is time. Time to get away. Time to think and do the right thing. Many kids, especially around adults will freeze or hesitate when stressed or panicked. Teach them to trust their intuition because it is always right. When they feel something is wrong trust it and get distance. Third, teach them the "fighting spirit". This is the attitude NO MATTER WHAT they fight, fight hard and never stop fighting. We use the term "Fight like a crazy cat". They are to bite, pinch, scratch and anything but never stop fighting. Just a cat fighting for it's life against a big dog--anything goes!
3. Do teach them the current "tricks" and tactics used by child abductors and human trafficker. Here are three effective ones they can use: 1.) "Not a Stranger" - Explain to children these individuals have become more shrewd and are so good at not looking like someone that will hurt them. In this recent local case it was a woman in a van. But it could be a mother pushing a stroller. Or an elderly person in a walker needing help. Or someone in uniform who looks like a police officer or firefighter. Teach them anyone can be one of these bad people in disguise. 2.) "Threats" - Here the abductor will threaten your child, their parents, siblings and even pets. What will shock a child is when the abductor says they know your parents names, address, routines, siblings or pet's name. Teach your child these threats are simply lies to control you. 3.) "Weapons" - This one does not surprise me any more. Unless you teach your child differently this is one they will fall for. What if they have a gun or knife? Teach them this - It does not matter. This is hard to teach, but just go to #3 above - Fight Like a Crazy Cat. A child will think "What if they hurt or kill me?" This is how John Gardner abducted and murdered Amber Dubois. The basic rule is simple - never let anyone take you away from the primary crime scene. It is better to make a stand there and fight than to be taken someplace else where you have no chance.
4. Stress and Repetition. Finally, explaining is good but may not be good enough. Knowledge by itself is not power. Only applied knowledge is power. Your child has to learn to apply what they have learned under realistic stress. They have to use their decision making skills under stress. They have to practice using their "yelling voice" under stress. They need to learn to fight under stress. Then they need repetition.
This is very similar to teaching one of our adult students how to defend against a knife attack. If we just tell them what to do they are probably a little safer. If we let them practice slowly with no stress they are definitely safer. But could they fend off a real attack? How would you react when you see a huge, shiny, sharp blade? The only way to make sure your child is safe is for them to learn to apply "Distance" and "Act like a Crazy Cat" under stress and with repetition.