Parents Don’t Be the Last to Know of a Predator - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Parents Don’t Be the Last to Know of a Predator

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Raising children is tough, and as parents, worry seems to be a part of the job. You cannot read or watch the news without hearing a story about a teen or tween being kidnapped, raped, scammed or too many times killed. Many times the predator had not only befriended the child, but the parents as well. When a child is hurt or killed parents not only grieve their loss, but they also struggle to understand how it happened, and often times blame themselves. Predicators are sick, and they don't think like normal people. This can be confusing, because they may act and look normal to the outside world. We cannot follow our kids everywhere, but having a dialogue with our kids when we read about something in the news can be a way of communicating a plan of action to your child and restoring a sense of security for ourselves.

The best plan always begins with talking to your kids about self-protection. Your child is the first defense against a predator, and when they know what to look for and what to say, they are able to come back and tell you when something was said inappropriately.


Danger signs to warn you child about:


  • Warn your child that if someone wants to take them to a location, give them a ride, or ask them for help with finding anything. Mature adults seek other mature adults, not kids, for help.
  • There is strength in numbers. Your child should never be alone unless they are working and you know their whereabouts. 
  • Communicate with your kids about anything they feel uncomfortable with. Don't doubt them, and don't second guess their instinct. If they are scared, be scared.
  • If your child is responsible for walking home from school by themselves, make sure there is a plan for when your child will call you to check in and out. No child should be left alone without strict guidance in this area. No one is allowed in or out of the house unless the parents approve it.
  • Every family should have a code word that can be used in the case of an emergency, so the child and parents know that immediate action should be taken.
  • Thirty, forty or fifty year old guys don't usually want to date teens. These are sick men. Teach your daughters early that if a man says something to them regarding their looks, hair, body or any part of themselves, they will tell their parents immediately. This is not flattery, this is mental illness.
  • Anyone hired to work for the parents must have a background check first. Predators are attracted to jobs where they can be near young children and teens.
  • Establish a rule in your home that no photos are posted online or texted to someone unless they are parent approved. Predators are all over social media because they are anonymous.
  • If you are under eighteen and fall in love with someone you meet on the internet, before you agree to anything, let them meet mom and dad on the internet first, and then when they visit, make sure mom and dad are with you the first time. This is happening more and more due to the gaming culture. Runaways sometimes report their reason for running away is because mom and/or dad wouldn't let them meet their new boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Any adult who asks your child to keep anything a secret, gives your child money, a treat, or tries to find reasons and time to spend with your child is most likely a predator. Help your child protect themselves by confronting the person and reporting them if necessary.


If your child is acting differently or you suspect something is going on, here are a few suggestions of warning signs to look for, and do not dismiss them without talking to your child.


  1. A child who is normally pleasant and easy going becomes irritable or disrespectful.
  2. Trouble sleeping or having bad dreams.
  3. Extreme anxiety, depression or both.
  4. Eating extreme amounts (girls being perpetrated many times put on weight to stop the abuser) or not eating at all.
  5. Failing or not doing as well in school. 


Effective communication with your tween and teen can help prevent predators and keep them safe. Below are a few reminders of what means the most to them.


  1. Show interest in what they are doing and what is interesting to them. They are developing their own abstract thinking. They don't want to be you; they want you to respect them for who they are.
  2. Be there, physically and emotionally. Tell them you love them frequently and show them with a hug when they need one.
  3. Listen before lecturing…always.
  4. Attend their events as much as possible.
  5. Little things mean the most, so when you can do a little thing to show them you are thinking of them, do it.
  6. Be part of their world, but give them space to create their own.
  7. Never underestimate humor.
  8. When they ask for the truth about their hair, makeup, body shape, or clothes give them your honest truth as gently as possible. Your words will be their inner tapes…forever.


Tween and teen years are a challenge, but no years are as important for building trust in your relationship with your child. Learn to breathe, learn to think before you speak, and always support your child. If they are worried or someone is threatening them, your warning lights should be on high alert. Protect them and get involved. –Mary Jo Rapini


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