Timmy is play at the park and a stranger walks up to him. The stranger says, “Hi, Timmy, your mommy has been hurt, and she asked me to take you to the hospital to see her.”
If your child was Timmy, what would your child do? Something similar has happened in our family, and the first response from our child would be….RUN. But, what if it was someone your child ‘knew”? Perhaps it was someone who they were familiar with, had seen often, and might possibly be a person whom you asked to help out. What would their response be? If you hadn’t ever thought about it before, this is a good time to.
Create a Family Password
A Family Password (Code word) is a great security measure you can take to protect both you and your children. It’s a word no one but you know, and anyone whom you share it with that you trust. In cases like the one above, if the familiar face knew the password, the child could feel safe in going with them, because it’s a word that has been shared only with the most trusted of people.
When else would you use a Family Code Word?
- It is a word to be used when someone is returning home, without their keys, and needs to be let in, and we need to know that they are okay.
- It is the word you use to alert your family that there is an emergency close by that they need to pay attention to (perhaps you’ve had a break in and you want your children to understand to stay absolutely quiet).
- It is an all clear sign to let your kids know it’s okay to open the door or that all is safe.
We have a friend who is in the kind of business where they have to have a password set up for everyday use. When any family member walks in the door, they say the password. If ever a time came when one of them did NOT say the password as they were coming in, they can expect to be met by any number of firearms pointing in their direction in case they have been compromised in some fashion. Is that extreme? For our family, yes, but for their family, absolutely not.
Pick a Code Word for Your Family
We have a single code word for the children that they are required to get from anyone who says they are here because Mom or Dad sent them. There is a difference here in that and someone there rescuing them from an emergency situation. Our kids know the difference. Here’s why. When my oldest son was just entering the age where we were trying to allow him more freedoms, he asked to go off to wander around a familiar area without us in tow. So, we drilled him. If someone comes up to you and says, “‘Your mom and dad were hurt, I’m here to take you to them’. What would you do?” Our son pipes up, quite full of determination and assurance in his answer, “I’d go with them!”
I know, in his head, he was in a familiar area and no one there would harm him. But to us, he hadn’t quite understood the idea that it didn’t have to be a stranger. That is the point in which we felt a family code word was in order. We share it with those family and friends whom we trust and are around our boys often enough that we know they would be the ones rescuing our kids if something drastic were to happen to both my husband and I.
Now that our kids are older, we feel the family code word for this kind of situation isn’t as likely as it would’ve been when they were younger, but we still, on occasion, quiz them on what it is. We’ve found other needs for alternative family code words now…
Emergency Code Words
Our code words are also a way for us to pass along instructions. We know that if we are separated, for whatever reason, and any of us call with the code word, we have a plan already set up to get back home as soon as possible, by any means available. Whether it’s a weather emergency or a national emergency, this is our way of being able to pass on that urgency, even if we only have 2 seconds for a text on an active phone line. If we hear or see the code word, we know it means get home now.
We also have another word. It is extreme, and it means do not come home, go to safety. Do we expect to ever have criminals come to our house and hold us hostage? No. But we DO try to have some plan in place that if there is a reason why the rest of us should not come home, we have a way to communicate that information in the shortest way possible. We would have to have access to a cellphone, sure. But better a plan set in place and never used than one never set all all and needed.
Additional Reading: Create a Family Emergency Binder
Practice Situational Use
Practice the word in situations that are safe so that your children aren’t startled by the use of it. Practice fairly often so that they don’t forget. As I was writing this, I turned to one of my children and asked what the safe word was and there was quite a bit of hesitation before it was recalled, which means we aren’t practicing enough, or the word is too common. Your Family Password can be a phrase or a word – whatever works best for you. It needs to be kept secret between you and your family and never given out lightly to anyone.
Prepare so that you aren’t scared
This practice of having a family password isn’t meant to create panic in your family that every situation is a potentially dangerous situation. You don’t want to live in fear, nor garner a spirit of fear in your children.
Setting up a family password with the understanding of how to use it can alleviate fear in a potentially dangerous situation.
Don’t fill your children with horrible thoughts of evil men and world ending situations, but use these as family guidelines that help you train them on being aware and prepared.
Share your thoughts: Do you have a a family code word? Have you thought of alternative uses for the practice? Has a code word alert ever been needed for your family? Share your thoughts and stories!