Unknown and Young Adults
Core Safety Strategies
Your child may have learned these types of personal safety skills when they were younger, and may not realize that they are still applicable as they grow older. Reminding your child of these safety strategies is a good way to reinforce protection, communication, and encourage responsible behaviour to reduce the likelihood of your child going missing. When discussing these personal safety strategies with your child, it is important to communicate the idea of keeping safe in an empowering way in order to help guide them in making safe decisions.
The following are some safety strategies as well as some suggestions on how to discuss them with your child.
Communicate openly. It is important to underscore the value of open communication and staying connected with your child. Should your child go missing, all you have to go on is your knowledge of your child and why this situation is unusual for your child. Being able to assure the police that your son or daughter ALWAYS calls when they are going to be late, or that it isn’t typical for your child to wander off alone, will help the police appreciate that there is reason for concern and should result in a more immediate response from law enforcement. Having knowledge about your child’s activities, living situation, and normal behaviours will give the police a better place to start if your child is missing.
Provide check points. Discuss with your child how they always need to tell someone where they are going and what they are doing. We teach young children to always tell someone where they are going, however, young adults have much more independence and may not understand the importance and need for others to know what they are doing. As a parent, you can help by reinforcing to your child that this is a time in their life when they need to be more proactive when it comes to their own personal safety because of their independence. Your child may not necessarily need to tell you about every plan they make, but it is important that they get into the habit of telling someone, such as a significant other, roommate(s), friends or co-workers. Someone should know your child’s schedule.
Use the Buddy System. It is important to remind your child of the value of travelling in pairs or in groups to and from places (such as parties or bars), not walking or travelling alone whenever possible, and looking out for each other. This is especially important for teens and young adults as they start experimenting with their increased independence, freedom and new activities. Teach your child to:
Avoid short cuts when walking alone. Stay on main roads and well lit areas.
Avoid abandoned buildings or isolated areas.
Always leave social gatherings (e.g. the bar or a party) with the friends they came with. At the very least, it is important for your child to inform their friends when they leave, telling them where they are going, and who they are going with. This type of habit means that your child’s friends will know immediately if something is wrong and can inform you and the police as soon as possible.
Avoid accepting or soliciting rides from individuals outside of your circle of friends and family.
One of the best things that teens and young adults can do to help protect themselves is to ensure that when they go out for the evening they go with friends, and they agree in advance that they will all stick together and leave together. There is safety in numbers, and by sticking together they decrease their chances of anything bad happening. Reinforce to your child that they should travel in pairs and never leave a party or a bar without the friends they went with.
Value friendship. Teach your child that being a good friend includes being a good steward of safety. Friends look out for each other and protect each other from getting hurt. They provide a circle of protection around each other. Teach your child that when out with friends, it is important to make sure that each person gets home safely at the end of the night. Friends should not leave another friend alone in a vulnerable situation because it’s more convenient. Being a good friend isn’t always easy — but it does increase safety.
Trust your instincts. Teach your child that instincts are the feelings inside of them that warn them of danger. Teach them to trust their instincts when they feel that something is wrong or not right, and to get out of that situation right away.
Be assertive. Teach your child that should they ever face a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to be assertive and do whatever it takes to get away – this includes shouting “No!,” running away and telling someone. It also involves fighting back if they can (e.g. kicking, scratching, punching, etc.). A would-be abductor is much more likely to abandon their plans if the child, youth or young adult is fighting back. We teach kids throughout their childhood to be polite and courteous towards others. However, when it comes to their safety, it’s important they know that social rules are no longer required. Attempting to construct a polite response in a dangerous situation can actually increase their risk of harm by delaying children, youth or young adults from leaving quickly. We need to openly discuss this exception with children, youth and young adults. Explain that if they find themselves in a situation that doesn’t feel quite right, they do not need to be concerned about manners — rather, it is prudent that they respond assertively, leave the situation immediately and tell someone what happened.
Share real-life stories. When it comes to teaching your child personal safety strategies, an effective approach is to share media stories with them about other people their age who have gotten into situations that have gone wrong. This will encourage them to consider ways of reducing their risk of harm while out with friends.
Have a transportation plan in place. When young people go out for the evening, having a transportation plan in place to ensure that they will get home safely is a must. Teach your child that when friends make sure that that no one is left on their own to get home, and that nobody walks home alone, particularly after a night of drinking, their safety is increased.
Teach your child that friends need to look out for each other. In early adulthood, it is quite common to meet a lot of new people in a variety of different settings. Young people can increase their protection by looking out for each other, and communicating with each other about people or situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
Call if they need help. Your son or daughter may, at some point of time, find themselves in a dangerous situation and not know how to get out of it. Tell your child that they can call you at any time and you will come and get them, or get them the help they need. Be prepared to mean it. Tell them that they will not get into trouble for calling, and that you will deal with things the next day. This acts as a safety net, and can be a very important tool if your child feels they do not have the proper judgment or resources to help themselves out of a situation.