After the kidnapping and subsequent rescue of two Missouri boys last week, many parents are wondering how best to talk to their children about the potential for dangerous predators without frightening them.
Psychologists and safety experts agree that it's important to talk about kidnapping. Parents should reassure their children that kidnapping is rare, but tell them that it's important to have a family game plan to stay safe.
The message doesn't have to be scary. Kids can learn about safety in a smart, but gentle, way.
Teach Kids to Spot Predators
While no two predators will look the same, their actions are usually similar, and can be anticipated.
"Teach children how to spot potentially dangerous actions no matter what the person looks like. They'll [be] be much safer because the action never changes," said "Good Morning America" safety contributor Bob Stuber.
Cater the Game Plan to Each Child's Age and Personality
The family safety plan should be tweaked for each child.
Institute a buddy system so kids can go from school to an activity in a group.
Create a secret password to help kids differentiate friends from foe.
If possible, arm them with a cell phone so they can check in regularly.
Tell Kids to Fight in an Extreme Situation
Experts say that in a kidnapping situation, fighting back is important. For kidnappings that result in death, 75 percent of the time, the victims are killed within the first three hours.
"Kicking and screaming, opening the door, shouting, 'Who are you? I don't know who you are. You're hurting me. Stop it.' To try to call attention to the situation they're in," said Marylene Cloitre of the New York University Child Study Center.
Kids should find something to jam into the car's ignition, jump into the back seat, or, if they're in the trunk, kick out the tail lights.
Make It Easier for Kids to Be Identified
Every parent can have their child fingerprinted at the police station for free. Some moms are doing even more.
"I have a current picture of them on my cell phone. So no matter where I was, if I couldn't find them in one second, I could identify them and say this is my child," said Stephanie Kaster, who has three children, ages 3 to 11.
Experts agree that the most important thing to do is to keep the conversation going. A lot of parents live in denial that their child will never get kidnapped, and that's a mistake.