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July 15, 2009 > Teaching kids to be safe

Teaching kids to be safe

By Ceri Hitchcock-Hodgson

The single, unfathomable fear experienced by anyone who has a child is often the one subject the most difficult to discuss - kidnapping.

Although by no means is child abduction a completely preventable crime, there are a number of precautions that parents can take that will prove key in keeping their kids safe. One local serviced is dedicated to educating families to be "Safe, not Scared" through abduction awareness classes at the Escape School.

Situated on the border of Fremont and Milpitas, the Lima Family Mortuary and Cedar Lawn Cemetery is proud to offer Escape School, a free abduction and awareness prevention program that "empowers children and parents by providing them with ways to recognize, avoid or escape potentially dangerous situations.

Presented in about an hour by a certified Cedar Lawn employee serving as teacher, Escape School classes are designed to be a mechanism for further home-based discussions between parent and child, not merely a crash course in avoiding kidnapping.

The sessions are intended to develop abduction-related awareness that will in turn lead to children making wiser decisions in four crucial areas; securing the home, dealing with visitors, interacting with adults other than parents and emergency situations.

Instead of the usual fear-based approach so often taken towards the topic of kidnapping, Escape School wants children to be able make decisions in the face of fear.

It utilizes the persuasiveness of entertainment to educate children about simple, yet crucial concepts such as the common techniques abductors use to lure victims, the plan to "get away, right away" and how to find help when needed.

These key points are further explored in demonstrations highlighting established practical techniques for escaping dangerous situations.

Unlike the "Stranger-Danger" programs of yesteryear which stressed children should view any unknown adult as a possible predator, Escape School teaches that "strangers" are not necessarily all "strange" (i.e., "bad").

In many cases, that unfamiliar individual could be the person who helps a child in a potentially dangerous situation. Instead of categorizing all strangers as Boogeyman, kids are taught to distinguish "good" and "bad" strangers based on actions and words, not simply by appearance or what a kidnapper is "supposed" to look like.

At the core of Escape School's curriculum of caution are the fundamental rules of abduction prevention such as informing young children about the dangers of taking proverbial candy from a stranger ("Never take gifts or food from strangers or anyone else without asking a parent first") to never accepting a ride from "Your Mom's Friend" that was sent to pick you up from school.

The Escape education builds upon these basic guidelines with the notion of empowering your child by giving your permission to break the rules if they feel their safety is at risk and declaring "NO!" to anyone attempting to violate their sense of what they feel is wrong.

Open communication between parent and child is also necessary and secrets should never be kept, particularly between a child and an adult that is not their parent.

It is important to remember that abduction prevention is not just a topic to be discussed with the Elementary School set, as children can be kidnapped at any age.

As teenagers mature, their newfound sense of independence can lead to a false sense of security and need to be warned to not take shortcuts through the empty parks, fields or alleys they were once forbidden to play in.

Adolescents must also be advised on the dangers of hitchhiking - the grown-up version of getting in a car with a stranger. Adding to these basics are ideas that may not be so obvious but are just as vital to child's well-being, such as never playing in deserted buildings or isolated areas.

The method of using scare tactics to coerce children into being excessively guarded against any unknown adult or situation may appear to keep them out of harm's way, but it fails to teach them the difference between "good" and "bad" adults.

In contrast to the outmoded school of thought that children need simply to be told to stay away from strangers to be safe, Escape School's innovative approach to abduction prevention puts the power into the child's hands, giving them the control to make the right decisions, therefore having an understanding of situations and individuals.

Since its establishment in 1996, this pioneering, yet proven, approach to abduction prevention has aroused such an intense interest it has been featured The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, America's Most Wanted, Leeza, Hard Copy, The View, and in "The New York Times," the "Washington Times-Herald," and "Parents" magazine.

Thirteen years after first introducing its "Safe, not Scared" approach to abduction prevention, Escape School sessions remain in high-demand by community organizations, church groups, scout troops and schools all wanting to be part of the five million plus families in the United States and Canada that have received an Escape School education.

To sign up for a free Escape School session contact Cedar Lawn Cemetery's Escape School presenter, Kim Quiles, at (408) 263-2868.

Escape School
(408) 263-2868

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