Contributed by: Vanessa Richardson

This month starts a two-part blog that explores measures parents can take with their children and continues with measures parents can take on their own.

A former U.S. Army officer, I rarely felt unsafe. Kids completely changed that sense of security. As any parent could have told me, small children are slow to move, won’t listen, and do not sit quietly anywhere. They make security difficult.

Speaking with neighbors I discovered I was not alone. So I adapted a list of operational measures I learned in the military for everyday use. These may be considered by anyone without a suspected or known threat.

  • Limit social media. Children and parents should limit posting any content identifying their locations, birth date, or identity. Consider the internet a global community of billions of people. Not all people share your values about your children. Security is routinely hacked. Ask family, schools, guardians to avoid posts. Grandma and Grandpa will love a photo book!
  • Teach your children to be “rude” to strangers. It is OK to respond to a stranger with nothing or “No, thank you” and keep walking. It is perfectly fine to ignore the door, a post, message, ding, snap, or tweet (!) when kids don’t personally know the sender offline. Teach your kids personal confidence and to ignore what others think of them.
  • Keep names off clothing and personal items. Labels (monograms, jewelry, tattoos) help strangers endear themselves to your children. They can make statements like, “Hi Taylor. Your Mom is sick. She sent me to pick you up.” Consider initials, or omitting labels entirely.
  • Use Passwords. Let your children identify a password to discretely tell you they feel unsafe or want to come home early. Practice making up sentences to use in everyday conversations. “Hi Mom. I don’t feel well. I think it was the cucumber” Or “Oh no! Seriously? Cucumber salad again?” Don’t ask questions, just say, “I phoned because I need to pick you up now.” Discuss the reason and appropriateness later.

Ms. Richardson is a former military officer and owns Cygnal Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing clients with processes, tools, and leadership for Project, Enterprise, and Emergency Risk Management. She is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. The statements here do not represent advice or risk assessment.