Code Words: Giving Kids an Easy (and Safe) Way Out
Do your kids know how to get out of a scary situation? Do they understand how to ask for your help when it’s embarrassing to ask? Would your child ever stay in a dangerous situation because they didn't know of a discreet way to leave? Code words can help!
(Pssst! If kids could handle every social situation on their own they wouldn’t be kids! They’d be really mature and totally put together adults! The truth is that kids sometimes need a parent’s help to get them out of an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation.)
But before we talk about code words, I want to emphasize that a child who is victimized is never at fault. Even if they’ve been taught what to do, they may be too intimidated or scared to execute the plan you teach them.
However, having a plan can give kids a chance to escape a dangerous situation. At the very least, conversations about body safety and pornography can help kids feel safe telling you when a violation or exposure has occurred.
Use code words
The “A” in the CAN DO Plan™ from Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids stands for “Always tell a trusted adult.” Part of telling an adult may include using code words:
“And if I’m ever at a place where someone shows me pornography, I can use a secret code phrase...to alert my mom or dad to come and get me.”
This code word or phrase can make it much easier for a child to ask for help. For example, a child could call and say, “my eyes are burning” or “my stomach feels strange.” When they use the agreed upon code phrase, you know your child can't tell you what's really wrong, but they need to be picked up right away.
Code words may be used for other dangerous situations as well. I know of one tween who used her code word when she went to a concert with her college age former babysitter who started acting really strange. The younger girl didn't feel comfortable driving home with her so she called her mom and used their code word. It turned out that the college age girl was experiencing seizures. Thank goodness they had established code words!
Sometimes, even a single "safe word" or letter will work.
Create an X-Plan
Recently an article by Bert Fulks went viral. In it he reveals that many kids stay in bad social situations merely because they don’t know how to get out of them. Bert describes his family’s ingenious “X-Plan”: If a child is in a dangerous or compromising situation, they can text “X” to their parents or older siblings. In response, the child receives a call:
“Something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”
“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”
This gives the child a lifeline to use. Furthermore, the “no questions asked” policy (the child can tell their parents as much or as little as they want about the situation) creates a greater bond of trust and safety. You can create your own “X-Plan” (or Y- or Z-Plan!) for your kids who have text enabled devices.
Child sexual abuse is linked to pornography
Giving kids code words as an easy and safe way out goes hand in hand with preventing sexual abuse. It’s no secret that child abuse and pornography are linked. In fact, many experts believe that the skyrocketing rise in child on child sexual abuse is fueled by their easy access to pornography.
My Body Belongs to Me Video
A helpful video that teaches kids never to keep secrets about sexual abuse.
The ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Serving the United States, its territories, and Canada, the hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in over 170 languages. If you have a concern about a child and possible sexual abuse, don't hesitate to call!