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traci in virginia

Thank you for posting these. I also have regular dialogue with my kids and review everything. We just did it this weekend. (they are 9 and 12). My husband passed away suddenly last year and now I am even more aware/careful than ever. They of course know this...I like number one and number 5 too. I will have to add them to my own list!
They thought I was overreacting until they heard about the girl who was taken and kept in the man's backyard. And sadly, THAT was a Happy ending. It could have been worse.
Thanks again.
I am taking your class in January and look forward to it!


Thanks for sharing! Your list is great; I'll be posting it on our family bulletin board. We just had our Missing Kids guy come through our neighborhood and that always starts our "what if" conversations! I too am taking your class in January and can hardly wait!

Mary Ann

Thanks for the reminder Karen that this is a fact of life now days and we really need to have this discussion quite often with our kids.
Better safe than sorry.
Love the sweet pic of Courtney!


Love that picture of her!

Great tips for what to tell your kids...I'll have to remember them for when my 2 little boys get a bit older.


Great topic Karen! Gabe is 8 and we've gone over some of this but I'm definitely going to discuss this again and again. We can never be too smart! Or scared! Have a great day!
P.S. Miss you in Roseburg!


Great info, Karen! We live in a city where an 8 yr. old girl was abducted and murdered. The police thought they caught the guy, but due to police screw-ups, he was charged but found not guilty. He moved across the country and wrote a book. I think kids need to know that bad guys never look like the bad guy!


It is never too young to teach the kids these lessons. My Dad used to tell us the same when my siblings and I were younger.

Jennifer M.

This is all great advice, especially for people with little kids. Thanks for posting this.


Great advice, but I heard once from a karate teacher that it's useless to kick a kidnapper in the groin because a lot of the time they're wearing a cup.

Suezi gurzi

love that Courtney Lee. She is a very smart little girl! Cute as a button i might add. Great advice and kids and parents can never hear too much of it. thanks for posting.
Would you mind if I copied and posted on my blog??

Wendy Goodman

Dr. Phil,
I love this. It is a great idea to teach our kids safety. I have a few books for my 3-year old about not talking to strangers and I hope it sinks in with him. Love your list, I am printing it out right now!


I talk to my daughter all the time about this sort of thing too. Great reminder. My daughter is like Coley and likes talking about it and always comes up with different scenerios. I also borrowed the Stranger Safety video from my library with John Walsh (a little cheesy a times for adults- but when my daughter was young she liked watching it)


Great reminders! She sounds like she's alot like my Natalie, in regards to the scary stuff- She's made up "rules" about what she can/can't watch or read right before bed!


As a kid, my family had a code word, so that if something did happen and someone else would have had to pick me up from school or something, they could use the code word so that I would know it was OK to go with them.


Even teachers can be bad, as well as coaches, priests, family and friends. Speaking from experience, please tell your children to trust their gut. If something doesn't feel right trust that feeling. Don't say, 'Oh, it's okay, he's Daddy's friend." Also, it's very important to make them understand there is no shame in telling/talking, even if it's a feeling they're getting from someone. You never know, and that's the way predators try to keep it. (How's that for preachy? Sorry.)


Thanks for the reminder! I love reading your stories. Courtney makes me smile.


Kudos to you Karen ... my girlfriend and I were just talking about the lack of "stranger danger" talks like we had growing up. I think people sometimes fall out of the habit. GREAT post and GREAT points.


This is fantastic. And while you prepare your kids you can also prepare yourself to help someone out of their own worst nightmare by signing up for amber alerts to your cell phone! Register here...



This is my favorite DVD :

And you have excellent points, pretty close to what they show in this DVD with John Walsh. We make our kids watch it every so often.

My 2nd grader made me proud when she ran home form the busstop and told me there was a lady there handing out cookies...she ran home and didn't take one. ( local politician was knocking on doors in the neighboorhood before elction day and staff gave out cookies...BAD IDEA I told them.)

Becky R


My kids and I watch John Walsh's video "The Safe Side" all the time as reinforcement. I like how it doesn't refer to strangers as strangers so much. Bad guys aren't always strangers unfortunately. Here's a link to the website if you or anyone is interested: you can also often find it at your local library along with their Internet Safety video as well.

Tammy Mellish

So ironic (and wierd?) to come here and find this because my children and I just ret'd from a venture where we had spied a hitcher and my son (8) asked if he was a hobo. I said, nah.. but it was the perfect opportunity to talk to him about stranger danger (and picking up hitchers), etc., and how dangerous strangers more times than not do NOT look dangerous. Good snippet here. Like that, a lot. Loving that Courtney Lee, too ;)


Thanks for all the great info! Good reminders to be honest with our kids.

I went to a workshop a few years ago put on my a local Sheriff's department talking about keeping kids safe from predators. A woman who actually works with convicted offenders taught the workshop and one of the biggest things I learned was that most of these guys weren't stragers at all. They were "trusted" adults who worked their way into the lives of kids and/or their families. These guys say parents are so focused on "stranger danger" lectures and talks that they never even see them coming.

After that lesson I always tell parents to teach their kids the difference between healthy touch and bad touch. And like the above commentor said, help your kids learn to trust their guts. And as parents, we have to keep aware and on guard often. Know where your kids are and who they're hanging out with. And trust our guts too.

Scary, scary world we live in.


I love your's a great idea...I think I'll make up one of my own!!

And Courtney Lee is just is okay to be scared and smart...sometimes :)

Julia Spencer

Have a family password. If that person does not know the family password, then the child knows it'sa dangerous situation.... The password can't be a disney character or spongebob. It has to be something personal to the family, and something only the family would know.


I love her too!

I watched a tips for kids show a long time ago. It was so fantastic. I wish I could find it. It was a former military guy that showed kids what to do if....I only remember two of them. One was to break off a button or any other small item and jam it in the key hole of the ignition if you were locked in a car. Then the kidnapper would have to get help for his car. The kids(or women) could get away. The other was if you were put in a trunk. Kick out the tail light and start waving at cars behind you. The kidnapper can not see you waving but other people can.
I really wish I could find that show!


Thanks for the list! And lots of good reader tips too...thanks for sharing everyone! Let's keep our kids safe and smart!

Susan Helms

Awesome points!!!! My oldest does the same thing as!

tara pollard pakosta

It actually happens alot more than we like to thiNK!
there have been about 10 attempted kidnappings in the area where I live and it's
not a bad area. It's just infested with children, think about 27 schools with 1000 kids
at each school, so it's a place where predators can easily try and nab a child.
it's scarY! I never let mine go anywhere alone!
thankfully no children have been taken, just attempts, not sure how much truth has been
in the stories, but it's enough to keep mine in my eye sight at ALL TIMES!
good information though!!!


You are such a good mom! I always told my girls this kind of stuff too and also any time a child was abducted and it was on the news I would call my kids to watch it so they could see that it can happen to normal everyday people.


Another tip that I saw on tv once was if your child gets lost and can't find a police officer (or similar figure) then they should tell a woman that they are lost rather than a man. The percentage of women predators is much lower.


thanks karen....we all need to keep that conversation going. we had the 911 talk this week and did some role playing ourselves.... was cutting wood with an ax and is bleeding
7yr old responds "'s mom only has one arm now"
the fact that we are trying says it all karen...keep it up

Heather T.

Great post, Karen! We play the Safetyville game with our kids every so often to review what they should do (there are different questions for different ages)...


Thanks for posting this Karen---There are some great tips listed and I'll be going over them with my son TODAY>


The only thing I would add, and this is picky, to your No. 1 above that I use with my children is that ANYONE OLDER OR BIGGER than you doesn't need your help unless your mom or dad (or caregiver you know and trust) is around and says it's ok to help. Because I have a very active imagination (and I'm a prosecutor--yea, I've seen a lot and Courtney is right, it IS scary)I want them prepared for the scenario where it is a teenager enticing them. I worry that children could see a teenager and think "kid" when MAYBE they should be thinking adult. I hate to break it to you, but there are teenage perps out there. Also, they know they cannot leave any area they are (the yard/playground) without having persmission first. Hopefully that will keep them from going off with another child.

I think it is great that you blogged abou this.


Yes, having a code word that one you OR the person that picks them up is something we always did, and it just made me feel better, knowing that IF the person picking them up didn't know the code word...they were to get away fast.
You are doing all the right things.
What a special mom you are!


I am going to go over all this with my girls again. I, too, talk about all this on a regular basis. We have not role played yet, I think we will try that over the weekend. Thanks for the list, we will be going over it at dinner tonight.


I think you should start charging for parenting advice! We'll start calling you Dr. Karen or Dr. Downs (smile!). You really don't need to be a true doctor to be called a doctor from what I've heard!! (wink, wink)
Great reminder to talk to my kids about stranger danger....thanks!


I did this with my kids too when they were small. We also had a secret code word to be used if anyone was picking them up from school etc... other my husband and I......because in the case of an emergency someone other than close family may have to, the person had to know the secret code before the kids could go with them


Great reminders, especially the part about bad guys don't LOOK like bad guys. We always tell our kids that just because you see a neighbor walking down the street every day and you recognize that he lives in our neighborhood doesn't mean he isn't a stranger. He's still a stranger and do not talk to him or approach him without mom or dad being around.


Saw that Dr. Phil show too, lots of great information. Thanks


This is such a brilliant post. When I was nannying, I always taught the kids to do if they got lost - on an outing we'd practice them telling someone what I looked like and where they live. Never thought to teach about stranger danger. I'm going to bookmark this post so that I make sure to teach my kids about this sort of thing in a fun way (currently, my kids are imaginary, so it'll be a while!). Thank you!


Such a good post. When I worked at the library, I saw so many parents dump their kids on the children's side while they went to the adult side. To my knowledge, nothing ever happened, but so many kids could have been gone in the blink of an eye.


aw, love that courtney lee too! what a great kid. and thanks for sharing your list- i'll definitely be sharing those with my kiddos too.


I actually caught a little of Dr. Phil the other day when they were talking about this. We actually had two attempted kidnappings on the same day earlier this week in Indianapolis. It DOES happen, so our kids can't be too prepared. Thanks for the reminder to bring this topic up with my little ones ASAP.


Those are such good tips! If there is a kidpower organization in your area I would highly recommendation them. I took my children to this workshop which was offered at their school for free being that the weekend workshop was 250.00 a family here in Colorado, it was worth the commitment from my kids and I. They were put into scenarios or taught about different situations and taught how to react. It was a 2 hour commitment for 2 weeks from us.


Funny we just watched "The Safe Side" Dvd this week (linked above by Becky) with my 7 and 4 year is wacky which helps because the topic is scary. My 4 yr old is the friendliest kid in the world, and I don't want him to stop greeting strangers, but I loved their distinction between "don't knows" "sorta knows" and "safe-side adults". It led to conversations that I assumed we'd already had but that weren't direct enough for my kids.

Stranger abductions are rare, but sadly molestation is not---and I think it is so important that kids know they have rights and don't have to be polite when their boundaries are crossed.



Great topic but I have to agree with Deanna, parents need to be even more aware of dangers from trusted friends and family. 1 in 4 girls (and possibly as many boys)is sexually assaulted in some way by the time they are 18. And though every one is always worried about the rapist in the bushes or the registered sex offender living in the neighborhood, we really have to be on guard for the uncle, coach, step brother, neighbor kid, and even the grandma (yes, women can be pedophiles too) who our child trusts. It is the person who offers to take your kids on outings or babysit for free. They bring them gifts to gain their trust. I realize this fits the description of most good grandparents but that is where you have to use your gut. My rule is if I ever have gotten even the tiniest bit of a weird vibe from any adult, they will never be alone with my child.

I volunteer for a camp that is specifically made for survivors of sexual abuse and during the extensive training we watched a fabulous video on talking to your kids about sexual abuse (I wish I could remember the name). They suggested making it a safety rule just like "don't tough matches" or "knives are for adults only." The rule they suggest is "No adult should ever touch you in your private areas (use your own terminology) unless it is to keep you clean or healthy." I started using this with my daughter right after we got through potty training (I was afraid it would be a little confusing before that). We also talk about what you should do if someone tries to do that to you. You yell "NO" in your loudest voice, push away from them if you can, and then run away and tell mommy or daddy right away. I also have taught her that secrets aren't safe b/c it is the secrecy that child molesters use to allow the abuse to continue happening. We talk about "surprises" being OK (e.g., it is okay not to tell what Mommy what Daddy got her for Christmas b/c we will tell her eventually and it will make her happy). The trick the is of course you need to be willing to not have secrets from your child. Thanks again Karen for the topic and I will have to add this sort of role play to our safety talks.


In this vein, a MUST-READ book is "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin deBecker. It's not new, but it's timeless. He also has a similar book re: kids. INVALUABLE STUFF, seriously.

Paola Norman

Ironically we were just talking about this with my son Joseph who is 8. He wants to walk to school alone and I won't allow it (though I do believe he would be pretty safe and the walk is 3-5 min long).
He was taught by the police who came to his school to yell FIRE!! The reason being is that apparently more people respond to fire to see if there is one then they do to the call of help. I thought this was very interesting.
Thanks for sharing your list. I'll go through some of the tips with my son.
I like your idea of being SAFE not scared. Great going Karen and great pic of Courtney Lee. May God Bless and protect all children everywhere.


That little girl in the photo is so pretty, I love her smile. I love to hear from you that you are doing some kidnapping scenarios.


And now, I love Courtney Lee. She has a sensitivity inside of her that comes through in all that she says and does. Your stories about your kids are so incredible. Thank you for giving us such strong pictures of both their exteriors and interiors!


Here's what I would tell my son when he was smaller.
If he gets lost, find another mommy. (I've been known to say find someone with breasts) :)
I also told him to scream "you are NOT my Mommy/Daddy"

Now that he's a bit older....not that he's alone much. But I am trying to teach him to always act like he knows what he's doing.

Shenandoah bed and breakfast

It is a good exercise for kids from being prevented from kidnapping.It is a nice thing for kids to learn some karate to combat with strange people.

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