How can I teach my children to avoid abduction and other personal dangers in our society without frightening them?

“How can I teach my children to avoid abduction and other personal dangers in our society without frightening them?” Ensign, Oct. 1983, 31–32

How can I teach my children to avoid abduction and other personal dangers in our society without frightening them?

Louis H. Fetherolf, chief of police in Midvale, Utah, and a former bishop. A parent recently said to me, “It used to be that we didn’t have to worry about such things as children being kidnapped in our neighborhood. It was something we only read about happening in other parts of the country.”

The occasion was a neighborhood crime prevention meeting, one of many that were held after the tragic kidnapping of a three-year-old child in a nearby community. According to children who witnessed the abduction, the child had been tempted by a couple in a car offering her candy. Following this kidnapping, concerned parents whose sense of security was shattered, as it always is when a child is missing, molested, or abducted, gathered together in neighborhood meetings to receive instruction from local police and sheriff’s departments on how to teach their children to avoid such dangerous circumstances.

In such meetings, parents learn some sobering facts. According to the August 1982 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, there are 30,000 missing persons, 50,000 parentally abducted children, and 1,000,000 runaways reported annually in the United States. As of January 1982, there were 17,983 missing juveniles (ages 6 months to 17 years) listed on the U.S. National Crime Information Center missing-persons file. They also learn, however, that education is the best means of prevention, and that teaching simple preventive measures in the nonthreatening, loving environment of the home can be very effective.

In family home evening lessons, or at any other time when a teaching moment presents itself, you can discuss how family members can be safe outside the sanctuary of the home. It’s not necessary to go into the frightening details of specific cases. Simply tell your children that you love them very much, and that you wouldn’t want anyone to ever take them away from you or do them any harm. They’ll understand that. Then explain that there are simple rules children can follow to prevent these things from happening:

1. Never talk to strangers while en route to school and other activities.

2. Never accept rides from strangers.

3. Never accept gifts from strangers, especially candy or money. Run straight home or to a neighbor’s house if such offers are ever made.

4. Never go with strangers who say they were sent by your mother or father.

5. Avoid walking outdoors after dark.

6. When you are home alone, do not open the door to strangers or talk with unfamiliar callers on the telephone. If someone asks if your parents are home, simply tell them that mother or father cannot come to the phone and will return the call.

7. If someone ever tries to abduct you forcibly, scream something understandable, such as, “He’s not my father!”

If you can give your children an understanding and a willingness to follow these basic rules, you will have done much to arm them against the possibility of abduction. In addition, it is important that you teach them to be alert to other peoples’ behavior and heed the promptings of the Spirit in obeying these additional rules:

8. Avoid strangers (especially adult men) who seem overly friendly.

9. Do not go into public rest rooms alone.

10. Avoid being alone with anyone who wants to touch you in an improper way. Never allow anyone (including relatives) to touch your body with improper intimacy; and if anyone ever tries to do so, tell mother or father right away.

Explain in a simple way the “why” of these preventive measures, and encourage your children to talk to you about any problems they may have encountered. Chances are, children who are in school will already have been cautioned about many of these things, reinforcing what you have said. Be an attentive and understanding listener as they tell you about their experiences away from home, or at home while you are away. Privately, ask your children in a discreet way what happens when they are alone with babysitters, friends, and others.

Parents can also set a good example. Don’t pick up hitchhikers or walk alone at night. And when you are away from home, call your children periodically to let them know your concern.

Get involved in establishing “Safe Home,” “Helping Hand,” or other child-safety programs sponsored by local parent-teacher groups or police departments. Some groups are setting up clinics for fingerprinting children so that files can be established to help authorities when identification is needed.

These few suggestions should give you a place to start in developing some prevention strategies. If we approach these teaching situations with true concern, at the same time showing forth an abundance of love, our children will be educated and not frightened.

After you have done all you can to teach your children sound preventive measures and safety concepts, ask for our Father in Heaven’s help. Each morning as you gather your family about you for prayer, ask him to watch over and care for the members of your family and to help them do what they can to be safe from the forces of evil. Remember the counsel of Amulek in the Book of Mormon: “Humble yourselves and continue in prayer unto him.

“Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.

“Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.

“Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.

“Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. …

“Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” (Alma 34:19–27.)