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Unknown and Young Adult Cases:Prevention

Teens and young adults have increased independence and freedom, and as such, encounter many new situations and come into contact with many new people. This is all a part of growing up. However, the combination of these factors tends to make teens and young adults particularly vulnerable to situations that can become dangerous.

Teens and young adults also tend to communicate more with their friends than their parents — particularly those who live on their own and go to school or work each day. Empowering your child with effective safety strategies and setting clear expectations for communication and responsible behaviour are important for your child’s safety. While not everything is within your control to prevent, if something does go wrong, having knowledge about your child’s general lifestyle and habits will help in the search for them.

Core safety strategies

  • Regular communication: Discuss with your child the importance of always telling someone (e.g., you, a significant other, roommates, friends) where they are going and what they are doing.
  • Use the Buddy System: Remind your child of the value of travelling in pairs or groups to and from places (e.g., parties, bars), not walking or travelling alone whenever possible, and looking out for each other.
  • Value friendship: Teach your child that when they’re out with friends, it’s important to make sure each person gets home safely and never to leave a friend alone in a vulnerable situation because it’s more convenient.
  • Trust your instincts: Teach your child to trust their instincts when they feel that something is wrong or not right, and help them come up with strategies to get out of situations they do not feel comfortable with.
  • Be assertive: Teach your child to be assertive in situations that make them uncomfortable, and do whatever it takes to get away — this includes shouting “No!,” fighting back if they can (e.g., kicking, scratching, punching), running away, and telling someone.
  • Share real-life stories: Share media stories with your child about other people their age who have gotten into situations that have gone wrong. This will provide an opportunity to brainstorm potential safety strategies that your child can use should they need to.
  • Have a transportation plan in place: Teach your child to have a transportation plan in place to ensure that they will get home safely after an evening out.
  • Call if they need help: Tell your child they can call you at any time if they are in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, and you will come and get them or get them the help they need. Tell them they will not be in trouble and their safety is your top priority. This acts as a safety net, and can be a very important tool if your child feels they do not have the proper judgment or resources to help themselves out of a situation.

Stay connected with your child

  • Spend time together and focus on listening to them: Listen to and empathize with their worries, feelings, and concerns.
  • Establish regular check-ins through phone, text or email: Stress that the point of your communication is not to monitor their activities, but to make sure all is well. Having regular contact with your child will not only help you keep in touch, but can also help to alert you if something is wrong.
  • Have contact information for your child’s friends, roommates, neighbours, and co-workers: Have contact information for those around your child and remind them to provide your name and number as an emergency contact to friends, roommates, neighbours, and co-workers.
  • Raise your concerns: Talk to your child about why you are concerned for their safety. Use third-person examples or stories (i.e., stories about what other people have gone through or experienced) to help start the conversation.
  • Take time to repair any damage: Regardless of the nature of a dispute, the angry words spoken, or the increased hostility, it is essential that you, the parent, begin the repairing process. Try to stay connected to show them you are still there for them.
  • Use a neutral third party: If, for example, your child has left home or refuses to communicate with you, try engaging other people in your child’s life to offer your child support and maintain communication.

If child keeps irregular hours or no longer lives at home, talk to them about ways to ensure you will have the information you need should something go wrong. It is incredibly important to stay in contact with your child, regardless of their activities, behaviour, or lifestyle.

The information provided above is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the age and maturity level of the child they wish to protect, and any other relevant factors.