Predators will sometimes try to lure a child by saying their mother was in a terrible car accident and that he’ll drive them to the hospital.
Here is how to teach your child not to fall for this rather common trick that predators use on kids, even teens.
Sometimes the lure involves another family member, not necessarily the mother of the child.
For instance, the predator may already know (by secretly observing the child at school or at a park) that the targeted victim has a brother or sister.
He then tells the potential victim, “Your little brother got hurt really bad riding his bike. Your mom sent me to take you to the hospital because she’s already there.”
Predators Use a Variety of Lures on Children and Teens
The “sick” or “injured” one is not the least bit uncommon, but you can train your child to recognize this ruse for what it really is: a man’s attempt to abduct and brutalize a child.
Parents Have Passwords for Many Things
Why not also have a password for your child?
“A password should be given to the child only, and the child should be told not to go with anyone [including women] unless they repeat that word,” says Dr. Shani Verschleiser, founder and CEO of Magenu, a non-profit organization that creates and implements educational curriculums dedicated to empowering children in personal safety and awareness.
It’s astounding just how many parents have not established a code word (“mommy code” or “our code”) for older kids.
The password should be easy for a child to remember, and impossible for a stranger or even someone known to the family to figure out.
What if you really DO get injured or fall ill?
Tell your child that if you’re ever sick or injured and in a hospital, and if you send someone to bring her there, you will give the password to that adult.
Say, “If I’m well enough to instruct someone to pick you up, I’m well enough to give that person the secret code.”
But also explain to your child that when a parent or other family member gets injured or suddenly sick, sending some stranger to drive the child to the hospital is NOT the way things usually work.
Rather, the driver will be someone whom the child already knows – very very well, such as an aunt, older cousin, good friend of the injured’s, or immediate neighbor.
What the Child Should Tell the Stranger
Explains Verschleiser, “If someone says come with me because your mom is sick, the child should say, ‘I need to call my dad/grandma/sister, etc., first.”
Prepare your child that the predator will respond with, “There’s no time; your mom’s really sick and needs to see you right away.”
Your child must be prepared to counter this by repeating boldly, “I need to call someone I know first.”
However, it would be a lot easier if you simply drilled into your child to bolt from anyone offering a ride to see “your sick mommy.”
And of course, a request for the password should send the predator speeding off in a panic.
Run for Your Life
The child should not wait to see how the stranger responds to “What is the secret code word?”
The child should immediately bolt from the scene, being that you will have already taught him or her that the injured mother lure is just that: a lure by a predator.
Nevertheless, tell your child that the stranger has one second to say the password. ONE SECOND.
If the predator has already stepped out of his vehicle, he could grab your child after she asks for the code word.
Though establishing a code word is crucial, it’s also important to drill into your child to simply sprint away from any stranger – male or female – who starts telling them, “Your mother was in a really bad car accident. She sent me to drive you to the hospital.”
JUST RUN! No time for code words!
Reassure your child that if you’re well enough to send someone to give you a ride, you probably aren’t that seriously injured, and hence, the worst case scenario – if the stranger is legitimate – is that your visit with your injured or sick mother is a little bit delayed.
But WOULD you send someone to drive your child to the hospital?
Explain that if you’re ever in a hospital, that you’d never enlist in a stranger for transportation in the first place:
“I have friends and family members who can drive you to see me if I’m ever in the hospital. Why would I send a stranger to do this?” This question will get your child really thinking.
Ask him if it makes any sense that you’d send a stranger instead of someone he knows well. Let him reflect upon this.
This reflection will strengthen his “stranger danger” radar.
Have him write out three reasons why it makes absolutely no sense for you to send a stranger to drive him to the hospital.
This writing project will instill more effective radar because it will force your child to think critically and analyze.
Don’t Be Afraid to Outright Warn Your Kids of Ruses that Predators Use
Tell your child outright, point-blank, that predators sometimes use the “sick or injured parent” trick.
If your child is old enough to be walking alone on a sidewalk or playing unsupervised at a park, then it’s time to do some talking.
“A child can be taught about the dangers of sex offenders in a non-threatening way,” says Dr. Verschleiser.
“Explaining that these people exist and have a sickness and therefore we have to protect ourselves is perfectly acceptable.
“A child who is naïve about these facts is definitely a much easier target and those whom predators look for. They are master manipulators. A child needs to be armed with the facts in order to navigate the world around them safely.”
Kids who’ve been prepared, says Dr. Verschleiser, will make better choices and not panic as quickly.
“However, this is the type of topic that needs to be reiterated at different times and role played out. This way it will be with the child and they can pull up that information when it is needed.”
Conduct this training session during a time and at a location where you’ll be free of interruptions and distractions.
Be persistent and repetitive with these guidelines for teaching your child not to be tricked into accepting a ride from a stranger because “mommy’s been hit by a car and is in the hospital.”