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High-profile abductions can provide teachable moments for parents, kids

Updated: 2014-02-20T04:23:43Z

By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON

The Kansas City Star

A high-profile abduction like the Hailey Owens case in Springfield is a good opportunity for parents to talk to their children about what they would do if someone tried to abduct them.

But when parents bring up the subject, they should do so in a calm, non-lecturing way and avoid using the term “stranger.”

“We don’t use word ‘stranger’ abduction,” said Lt. Kelli Bailiff, the public information officer for the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office. “It is too confusing in order for a parent to teach a kid about ‘stranger danger.’

“I know that’s a hot little catch phrase, but it’s not working. It’s too hard for parents to teach, and kids don’t get it.”

Instead, parents should focus more on instructing kids what to do in particular situations, she said.

For example, kids should be taught to walk in groups when going to and from places.

If they are alone, kids should be taught not to approach any vehicles that pull over and the drivers who may try to talk to them.

Instead, children should be taught to run home if they are close enough or to the nearest house and start banging on doors and yelling and screaming, Bailiff said.

Parents should also teach their children that if someone does grab them, then it’s time to fight for their life.

“They need to put their bottoms on the ground, they need to put their feet in the air, they need to start kicking that person and yelling and screaming and clawing at their face and trying to poke their eyes out,” Bailiff said.

Parents should use events like the Springfield abduction as a teachable moment to have an age-appropriate discussion with their children who are between 8 and 13 years old.

“Tell them that there are some people in this world who are out to hurt young children,” she said. “Most of the people in this world are wonderful people, but there are a few that are not.”

She said to use that discussion to go over what to do if someone approaches or tries to grab them.

And in a few days, bring the subject up again.

To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to bcronkleton@kcstar.com.

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