Kidnapping prevention tips for kids: Teaching your child to stay safe from abduction in Singapore

Kidnapping prevention
With news about possible child abduction attempts here in Singapore, we've been looking at kidnapping prevention tips and books on tricky people to share with our children...

We’re all guilty of taking the low crime stats for granted here in Singapore – where else in the world can you chope a table with a mobile phone and still expect it to be there when you get back? But with recent worrying news from several international schools concerning attempted abductions, now is the time to check that our own kids are up-to-speed when it comes to avoiding scary situations, and how they can recognise tricky people from trusted grown-ups. We’ve got some kidnapping prevention tips to share with your little ones (and bigger ones – teens and internet safety are another parenting minefield we need to be on top of), and have found some lovely picture books that might help explain sticky situations when it comes to strangers.

STRANGER DANGER OR TRICKY PEOPLE?
The term ‘stranger danger’ may confuse a young child – telling them not to talk to strangers can be baffling (especially if they are reprimanded for not saying hello to the Aunty in Fairprice who tried to engage in conversation). But teaching your kids street-smart skills and differentiating between ‘safe strangers’ (police officers, teachers, etc) and ‘tricky people’ is essential, no matter where in the world you are.

Top tips to share with your little ones about tricky stranger
Role-playing, examples and books are probably the easiest way to explain the difference between tricky people and safe grown-ups. We’ve come up with five ways your child can try and recognise potentially tricky strangers…

1. Grown-ups who ask children and not other adults for help 
A tricky stranger may try to persuade a child that they need emergency assistance: Teach your little ones that safe grown-ups will only ever ask other grown-ups for help, never, EVER a child. Lost puppies and emergency situations are good examples that a tricky stranger might use. Emphasise that they should not go anywhere alone with an adult unless a trusted adult has told them it’s okay.

2. Grown-ups who offer special gifts
Let your child know that if a grown-up offers to give them something (money, a pet, candy, etc), they should definitely not take it unless a safe adult has given them the go-ahead.

3. Grown-ups who tell kids to keep secrets or promises
You should be crystal clear with your children that safe grown-ups will never ask a child to keep a secret from trusted adults like mummy, daddy or a teacher. Reassure your kids that nothing bad will ever happen to them – or us – if they tell the truth, and any adult who tells them otherwise is not to be trusted.

4. Grown-ups who try to take children somewhere alone 
Let your kids know that they should NEVER get in a car, wander off with or go to the house of a stranger. This is something a safe grown-up would not suggest.

5. Grown-ups who make kids feel uneasy
Tell your kids to trust their instincts when it comes to people who might make their tummies feel a bit funny. Teach them the ‘thumbs up / thumbs down’ rule. If a grown-up is causing your child to want to give a big thumbs down to a situation, encourage them to share their feelings with a trusted adult.

Do also reinforce with your children that they should:

  • Never go anywhere with a stranger.
  • If a stranger grabs them they should scream, yell, kick and make as much noise as possible.
  • If a stranger gets too close, or makes them feel uncomfortable, run away and get help.

And when it comes to older kids:

  • Remind them regularly of the possible dangers of dealing with people they don’t know in person and online.
  • Teach your tweens and teens to try and stick together in groups when they are leaving school or out in public.
  • Make sure they let a parent / teacher know exactly where they are going and with who when not at home or school.
  • Teach them that it’s okay to walk away from situations that make them feel threatened or uncomfortable in any way.
  • Keep an eye on your child’s internet usage and websites they are using. Yes, they will moan. But they need to understand that this is not an invasion of privacy but a way to keep them safe.

BOOKS TO HELP CHILDREN UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING STRANGER AWARE

Kidnapping Prevention books

When Lyla Got Lost (And Found) – Abbie Schiller and Samantha Kurtzman-Counter
This beautifully illustrated story educates and reassures little readers on what to do if they become lost, and offers practical tips to help prepare young children should they ever stray too far from their trusted grown-up’s side. (We’ve all had that panic-stricken moment when our toddler wandered off in the supermarket…). The story follows Lyla, who knows exactly what to do when a shopping trip with her mum and brother ends up with her lost – and, thankfully, found!
Recommended for: two to six year olds

A Little Book About Safety – Samantha Kurtzman-Counter
Tackling the tough topic of kids personal safety in a gentle way, kids will love following the story of Hugo Hippo when he heads off for a day out with his family to his local swimming pool, where he is confronted by opportunities to make choices about his own personal safety. Little ones and grown ups will relate to this lovely story full of easy-to-like characters, making its underlying message easy to digest.
Recommended for: three to six year olds

The Day My Parents Got Lost – Susette Williams
Kids will chuckle at the spin in this amusing story which teaches the importance of staying together you when you visit busy places: it’s the parents that get lost in this tale! A great read that gets the important messages across without being stuffy or scary.
Recommended for: four to eight year olds

Not Everyone Is Nice – Frederick Alimonti and Ann Tedesco
Every parent’s worst nightmare: a ‘nice man’ offers to drive a little girl home from school on the pretext that her mummy isn’t well… Thankfully her mum pitches up just as she is about to climb into the car and all ends well. There are lots of great tips for little ones on what to do if a stranger approaches them, and some good reminders to them that not everyone who seems nice, really is.
Recommended for: four to eight year olds


I Can Play It Safe – Alison Feigh

This colourful picture book teaches kids the important rules when it comes to personal safety, and it’s written in a kid-appropriate, non-scary way. It’s penned by a child-safety expert who definitely knows her stuff when dealing with tricky topics, including safe versus harmful secrets and trustworthy adults your child can turn to if they need help.
Recommended for: four to eight year olds

The Berenstain Bears Learn About Stranger – Stan Berenstain
Having the chat about strangers is, of course, essential, but it’s sometimes difficult to get the fine line right between teaching our kids to stay safe, and terrifying them that all strangers are out to get them. Mama Bear brings some sense to the situation when Papa Bear goes overboard with his warnings. We also love the cute but useful ‘bears rules for safe conduct among strangers’ included in the book.
Recommended for: three to seven year olds

Like this story? Here’s more you might find useful:

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How to raise street-smart kids in Singapore
The social media battle between parents and teens