It can happen in an instant and a child’s life is forever changed. The ‘it’ is child abduction, a parent’s worst fear and an experience one should never know. The recent spate of child abductions, and attempted abductions, in south Louisiana and Texas has once again raised concern for parents, caring adults and law enforcement officials alike.

Sheriff Mike Tregre says, “Children are naturally trusting, and it can be hard to teach them to balance this trust with caution. But, children today need to know just what is necessary to help keep them safe, and they need confidence to know how to handle emergencies and odd situations effectively.”

For some parents, the subject of child abduction is just too difficult to discuss with their children. Yet talking with children is the most important step toward ensuring their future safety.

“Children who understand the reasons for safety precautions and feel trusted to make judgments concerning their own safety are self-assured, feel that they can turn to their parents at any time for whatever reason, and are better protected.

“Child protection consists mainly of raising children with the proper skills and values so that they feel comfortable doing the right thing, refusing peer or adult pressure to engage in questionable or illegal activities, and creating a supportive neighborhood and community environment,” Sheriff Tregre continued.

How can parents and caring adults teach children to protect themselves? Sheriff Tregre says, “Start with the basics. Thousands of children are reported missing every year in America. Some children will be found and returned home. Others will not.”

These tips tell you how to keep your child safer:

Teach your child about the abduction problem in a simple way, as if you
were teaching him any other skill.
Parents should know where their children are at all times.
Make sure your child knows his full name, address (city and state), and
phone number with area code. Be sure he knows to call 9-1-1 in
emergencies and how to use a public phone. Practice making
emergency calls with a make-believe phone.
Remind children never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from
them. Young children have a tendency to think that strangers are ugly,
monster-like people who lurk in shadows. Make it clear that a stranger is
anyone you and your children don’t know well.
Teach your child not to let anyone in your home without your permission,
and never to let a caller at the door or on the phone know there’s no
adult at home. The child can say his parents are busy and take a
Make certain your child knows how to secure your home. Teach him how
to lock and unlock windows and doors.
Teach your child to go to a store clerk, security guard, or police officer for
help, if lost in a mall, store or on the street.
Set a good example with your own actions-lock doors and windows and
see who’s there before opening the door.
Never leave children alone in cars.
Take time to listen carefully to your child’s fears and feelings about
people or places that scare or make him feel uneasy. Tell him to trust
his instincts. Let him know that he can tell you anything and that you’ll be
Remind your child that no one, not even a teacher or close relative, has
the right to touch him in a way that makes him feel uncomfortable, and
that the right thing to do is say ‘no‘, get away and tell a trusted adult who
will help him.
Encourage your child to walk and play with friends, not alone. Tell him to
avoid places that could be dangerous-vacant buildings, public restrooms,
playgrounds or parks with broken equipment and litter, and alleys.
Make certain your child is taking the safest routes to and from school,
stores and friends’ houses. Walk the routes together and point out
places he can get help.
Encourage children to be alert in the neighborhood and tell a trusted
adult-you, a teacher, a neighbor, a police officer-about anything he sees
that doesn’t seem quite right.

Sheriff Tregre concluded, “It’s impossible to shelter children from every danger they may encounter when growing up, however the most important commitment a parent can make to a child is to spend more time with him or her. The lonely and attention-starved child is an easy target for the likes of a child abductor.”