Code Words for Children's
By Tenna Perry
Every day, parents around the world give their children
the same advice they themselves grew up on: "Don't speak
to strangers." While excellent advice, few parents will
go on to explain to their children why this rule is so important.
Their reasons for not covering this area will vary according
the individual but even if it is discussed, these safety
leave out the possible dangers from supposed authority figures
the children already know.
While an authority figure could be a person in many types
the most common ones are police officers, fire department
hospital workers, school employees and church officials.
Children usually receive two impressions from their
Typical parental advice teaches children to go to
a police officer
if lost or in trouble; that the officer is there to "serve
and protect" them
so, in turn, the police are people to be trusted. At the
same time, every
time they pass a cruiser on the freeway, children will see
(or even hear)
parents acting afraid of that same public servant by slowing
showing nervousness, or by checking their mirrors to see
if the officer is
coming after them for some unknown reason.
In the end, children
police as authority figures who should be both feared and
Confusing? Think of how it is for children. The media doesn't
misconceptions by showing officers only in negative context,
such as beating or shooting someone whom they are trying
to apprehend. As for movies, good cops or bad, they all
seem to end up shooting people.
Other authority figures whom children are taught to "respect
and obey" are
teachers, school officials, church members, pastors, babysitters
course, relatives such as aunts, uncles and grandparents.
Depending on how social the family is, this list can multiply
to an exceedingly large,
confusing number of people. How can a child sort through
individuals and know which ones are safe? Or that the message
just delivered by the man (or woman) in the blue uniform
or Mom's friend "Miss Sue" is actually from his
A simple precaution parents can take to ensure their children
don't go off
with a possible assailant is to have a secret word that only
their children know. This secret or "code" word
should be easy enough for
the children to remember but obscure enough so that the assailant
wouldn't be able to guess.
Obscure means it shouldn't be a pet's name, a nickname or
child is known for, such as the color of her hair, favorite
animal or color.
If you decide on a TV character, try to avoid the most popular
Barney, the Power Puff Girls, Scooby and others. In the case
of my eldest
daughter, our first code word was "Tessa." It was
the name of a supporting
character in a show we all enjoyed.
Once we chose a code word, I then had friends and coworkers
test my daughter to see if she would follow her teachings.
The first couple of times she didn't but eventually she got
it right. So right, that the one time I actually did send
a coworker to pick her up when I was stuck in surgery at
work, my daughter wouldn't go. The coworker had to go inside
the school and call me so I could tell my daughter to come
back to the clinic with "Ms. Prissy."
Code words can save a child's life. They can make the child
feel secure in
what could possibly be a traumatic time, but they aren't
picking a word isn't going to make the child remember to
ask for it or
respond to it. When testing the child, the code word shouldn't
be given to
the person you ask to approach your child. It is OK to change
the word now and then but too often will leave the child
There are circumstances where it isn't possible for a parent
to give the
code word to someone. A car accident, sudden illness or any
event can result in the child being picked up by a neighbor,
friend or, in drastic cases, the police or local social services.
Discuss these possibilities with your children. Make them
importance of questioning the person who approaches them.
Preferably, they will question them from a distance. There
is no emergency so great that a child can't go to another
authority figure and ask questions. Children
should be taught that when they are approached at school
or daycare to go directly to the office for help. A "real" police
officer or social worker
won't be angered by this minor delay. Nor should family or
friends who mean the child no harm. The school can easily
verify the story of the person wanting to take your child.
When testing your children, it isn't a bad idea to test
the school as well.
A test offers a perfect opportunity to find out how observant
the employees are or how lax the security is.
While on the subject of testing, don't stop with only one
establishment or system can have a good or off day. Teaching
children to be safe is the job of each and every parent.
Not the school or the daycare but the PARENT.
Code words are a simple way of increasing the safety of
children and when it comes down to it, isn't keeping children
safe the most important part of
being a parent?