Teaching your child about ‘stranger danger’ after Virginia abduction case
BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Noah Trout’s abduction has left families across our hometowns looking for how to keep their children safe when away from home.
The Virginia Tech Child Development Center is offering some advice for parents to help teach their kids about ‘stranger danger.’
Director Karen Gallagher says it’s a topic that can be really hard to talk to your kids about, but there are conversations you can start having with your children now to prepare them for what to do if a stranger tries to take them.
“Lots of checks and balances to make sure that the employees that we’re hiring are safe to be around children,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said there’s a fingerprinting process, background check and check of a central registry before anyone can work at the facility.
“You do need to revisit and provide updates,” Gallagher said.
Even with these measures in place, the center plans to look at how they provide childcare after Noah Trout, 2, was abducted, then safely returned to his family Monday afternoon.
“We are just very thankful that Noah was found and that he’s safe,” she said.
Gallagher said it’s easy to entice children his age with a toy or something more — that’s why they always have sight and sound supervision with a check-in at every door, before entering the playground and constantly while outside.
“We count out loud because we want the children to see that that’s an important component of their day to know that they’re safe and that they should always be with the group,” Gallagher said.
Plus, it’s a chance to teach some math skills. She also suggests reminding staff you’ll be the person to pick up your child, too.
“Whenever we’re unsure, we ask questions,” she said. “It might inconvenience a parent or family members that show up to pick up a child. This is for the child’s safety and for your safety.”
Gallagher said now is the time to have these conversations with your child, preparing for the unknown.
“It’s a delicate conversation because it can create anxiety for sure, but it’s an unfortunate reality that we’re all dealing with so those conversations are still important,” she said.
You can also create simple code words with your child for when he or she may feel threatened. It’s also important to keep recent photos of your children, have identifiable clothes without names and up-to-date medical and dental records should something go wrong. Gallagher added the importance of having updated custody papers on file.
Children should be taught who they can and cannot approach if they are separated from their families. If someone takes them, you can teach them that kicking and screaming is a good way to draw attention to get help.
Gallagher said this is a good time for childcare services across the NRV to come together and talk about what works and what doesn’t because best practices are constantly changing.
She suggests looking to literature for inspiration on how to start these conversations with your children.
Here are a few books Gallagher recommends:
- The Day My Parents Got Lost
- I Won’t Go With Strangers
- If I Get Lost: Stay Put, Remain Calm, and Ask for Help
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