Kidnapping Information

How to tell your child about kidnapping
Courtesy, Trinidad Guardian, Monday, September 19, 2005

Handling the conversation about security:

  • Your aim should not be to create fear. Your children will absorb your fear, rather than what you are trying to say, and will be ill-prepared to cope with a crisis. Be simple and direct. Let children know that itís important for everyone in the family to stay safe, so thatís why youíre having this talk. Explain new security measures. Tell everyone clearly what he or she will need to do differently. You need not say, especially to primary age or younger children, that these are to avoid kidnapping. You can simply say that this way they will be easier to supervise or it will keep them out of the way of traffic or various other reasons. Treat new measures as simply part of the normal routine. Show confidence in the measures you have put in place. If the family is now supposed to be safer, you shouldnít still appear nervous. No protection is absolutely perfect. But you can make a kidnapping so difficult that it is no longer worth any kidnapperís while to try. Make sure that the security measures around your childrenís schools are adequate. You may need to make special arrangements to collect your secondary school child, such as having him/her wait in the library after school or in the principalís office.

    Talking to little ones:
  • The younger children are, the less you say and the more general you make it. For children seven and under, find out how much they have heard about kidnapping. If they are aware, talk to them about how you keep them safe: that they wait with Aunty after school, that only Uncle picks them up, that they never answer the door or gate on their own. This is also a reminder of security procedures. If the child isnít really aware of kidnapping, then simply talk through safety measures as a reminder. Tell them about new measures and practise going through these at home. Of course, for little ones, security is really the business of the adults around them. If a young child has only vague fears and anxieties about being safe, then allay these with straightforward information. Tell him/her that sometimes people are mean to other people or try to hurt them to get their money or things. Say this is really unfair and to tell the teacher or you if anyone tries to do this. Children are allowed to defend themselves against bad people their own age or yell loudly for help if the bad person is bigger than they are.

    8 to 12 year olds: This age group will almost definitely know about kidnapping. Give them certain facts: very few people their age are kidnapped; kidnappers donít want to hurt anyone, they want money; once money is paid, the kidnappers release the person. Children respond well to being given practical ideas and information about security. Empower them by letting them know that they are in charge of certain measures to protect themselves. These should be nothing too demanding: making sure that they are in the right place to be picked up, letting the school guard know if they see any strangers on the compound.

    Talking to teens: This is the age of rebellion and independence. Scolding and ordering about wonít work. Be frank about the risk and the consequences of kidnapping. Point out that it affects the whole family and may change everyoneís life forever. (Resist the temptation to let kidnappers take particularly difficult adolescents.) Talk with your teen, especially older teens, work out appropriate security measures together. Try to include their ideas. Let teens know they can still go out with friends, as long as they can work out how to address your security concerns. Itís their job to devise a suitable security plan and present it to you for approval. Make sure to congratulate them for working out and following a good plan. Suggest they share it with friends.

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