So I spent a couple of days at an out-of-town conference for work. It was nice that my babysitter for the couple days was more than willing to travel and watch him while I was in training. Bonus! What that also meant was my hyper-awareness of kidnapping was amplified but in a new city! A tourist city. What fun!

Oh, before I forget to mention, the training was on the topic of human trafficking. For those who aren’t up on this topic, it’s a commercial sex trade industry valued at over $150 billion and affecting more than 40 million people worldwide, in which people are coerced or forced into prostitution and the average age of victims is 13. So, you could say my fears and worries were a teensy bit heightened at this time.

Anywho, I would get ready for work in the morning, give my sweet boy a kiss goodbye, give him the “stranger talk”, take a picture of his outfit and write my phone number on his hand… you know, the normal stuff 😉 I like to justify the helicopter mom concept in situations like this but I also know that my fears CAN be crippling at times. While most of us parents look completely normal and suave on the outside, truthfully the inside of our minds are like malfunctioning command centers with screeching alarms and blinding red lights going off while the only person working is the new guy who just started his first day and has no idea what he’s doing.

Every situation I find myself in, there’s a very important lesson I learn. I’m grateful that I’m able to realize these lessons fairly early on and implement them into my daily life both as a mom and — what I hope I am — a good person. If I’m being honest, I was a wreck on the inside, and a lot of people would find my fears and the thoughts running through my head during this couple of days completely ridiculous. Fortunately, in the work that I do, I know that these are completely necessary and justified. I just may not always handle them in the most productive way.

What I want every parent to know is that our fears of the outside world are not unrealistic, and the problems in society aren’t just “over there” they CAN and DO happen to us. We have to be prepared and find ways to keep our children safe, and this involves having uncomfortable conversations sometimes. Fortunately, the end result is absolutely worth it, both for the safety of our kids and for our peace of mind.

Some things you can do to help keep your kids safe in a scary world?

1. Educate yourself on what’s going on out there. Don’t sweep it under the rug, don’t turn your cheek, don’t believe that ignorance is always bliss. (sometimes, but not always)

2. Educate your children. Teach them about consent. Talk to them about strangers but also both be aware that more than 3/4 of perpetrators are people your children already know. (You don’t have to make this part scary, just be real with them)

3. If they’re old enough, teach them about 9-1-1 and how and when to call. (My 3 y/o knows how to unlock my phone and call his dad if something happens)

4. It doesn’t hurt to write your name on their hand and cover it with a clear coat of nail polish if you’re going to be somewhere with lots of people. I don’t care how great of a parent you are, your children CAN get separated from you.

5. Finally, let your children know that they can always talk to you, about anything. If they’re afraid to talk to you about private things, they won’t come to you when something is very wrong. We are their protectors.

We got a little serious here, sorry about that, but this is a very important topic and I think we’ll all feel much more at ease if we strive to make our safety a priority. Fortunately, we have lots of great resources out there to help.