ABC News reported that an east Texas jury sentenced two women to prison Tuesday after convicting them of kidnapping a Houston boy when he was 8 months old and hiding him for eight years before he was found. Prosecutors told jurors that both women neglected Miguel during the eight years they hid him from authorities, denying him appropriate medical care and keeping him out of school.
Parents, when we hear stories of kidnapping such as this, we are immediately frightened and angered. Kidnapping is something that scares both parents and children and it is an important subject to have a thorough discussion about and answer any questions your children might have about it in an age-appropriate manner.
According to the United States Department of Justice, 58,200 children are abducted by nonfamily members each year. "Talking to your Kids in Tough Times," (Bay, 2003) offers several helpful suggestions and answers about talking with your child and answering some of lifes tough questions. The following is a list of possible conversations you might have with your child about kidnapping that may help you as a parent guide the discussion.
Discussion kidnapping with younger children
Kidnapping's are very scary for everyone involved and the subject of kidnapping can be brought up by children as young as three or four. At this age, children fear that a "bad guy" will "take" them. One of the natural coping mechanisms of children is acting out their fears. Children look for mastery over scary things and games in which they fear a "bad guy" should not be stopped. What should be of interest is the outcome. If the outcome of the game your child is playing has them kidnapped, that might be something to discuss further, but if a child end's up defeating the "bad guy", it demonstrates that your child is working out things in their own way.
Repeating and reinforcing safety messages
When your child hears about a recent kidnapping, it is the perfect time to repeat and reinforce the core message that "You are safe. And this is very rare." This can also be a great opportunity to talk to your child about preparing for dangerous things that can happen, but always remember to reiterate that they happen very rarely.
Important things parents can tell their child about kidnapping
Does your child know to resist being taken somewhere? Does your child know that it's all right to fully resist an adult? Tell your child that it is okay to do anything to resist being taken somewhere in public. This is a very critical issue. This might mean yelling, screaming, hitting, punching, or biting. Parents, you are probably wondering when you should begin to teach your child these strategies? Many experts believe that children under six should not be responsible for their own safety, but that you can begin to teach them these principles when you think they are ready. You know your child best, and you know when the time is right.
Learn what it is to fear
The issue is not strangers, it's strangeness. Parents and teachers need to help our children learn who to choose and how to choose people in public to go to. This is a much more helpful resource than teaching them to fear everybody they don't know.