According to the NSA’s Kid Safe Network, one of the top lures used to abduct children is called the “emergency lure.” Predators will fake a crisis to trick kids into willingly going with them. For example, they will tell the child, “Your mom has been hurt and is in the hospital. I’ve been sent to take you to her.” To counteract this lure, one of the safety strategies I teach parents is the concept of having a “family password.”
In this case, the goal of the predator is to force a youngster (whose logic and reasoning skills are not yet fully developed) to make a judgment call and simultaneously prey on one of the child’s greatest fears: something bad has happened to mom or dad. Imagine if a child is approached on a day when mom is running a few minutes late for pick up. You now have a panicked child who cannot be counted on to make a well thought-out decision.
There is also the possibility that you may actually need to send a friend or neighbor to pick up your child from school or a sports practice due to a flat tire, traffic or something else unforeseen. In this instance, you need your child to trust someone so you can be assured he or she will be picked up and properly cared for without incident.
A simple solution to both of these scenarios is having a family password. The password is simply a pre-determined word that is only given out to people outside the family on a need-to-know basis. As with any password, it should be difficult to guess, but easy for your family to remember.
With the family password in place, if a child is approached by someone who attempts the emergency lure they can simply ask, “What is the password?” The child knows that the person may only be trusted if they supply the correct password. Please note, role playing and repetition are just as important as creating a family password.
In my experience, youngsters have difficulty applying the family password concept to a live situation without significant role playing. In other words, a child’s first instinct is not to ask for the password when approached with a real crisis situation (even if they have been taught about the family password). However, with regular repetition and role playing, it will become an automatic response, which is our ultimate goal.
Remember: deciding on a family password, repeatedly quizzing your child on it, then role playing different situations where it might be used all lead to a much greater chance of success in the face of danger.