Using Code Words for Family Safety

Recently, my daughter received a call from a man claiming to have snatched her daughter. It was one of those scam calls, complete with a crying child, that we’ve been warned about on social media and in the news.

Hearing about her experience reminded me of how important it is to have family code words and to periodically discuss your code words and when to use them.

Set Up Code Words With Your Family Members

Code Words need to be pre-determined words that are easy for your children and you to remember but would be difficult for someone else to guess – hmm, just like a computer password.  In the rutabaga example below, family members could remember it because it was something everyone disliked.

Other things to keep in mind when setting up code words:

1) Do not use names that are commonly attached to your family, like a pet’s name.

2) Don’t be too general with your choice:  rather than “giraffe” use “green giraffe.”

3) If the word is ever given to someone outside your family, you need to set up a new code word.

Ways Code Words Can Be Used

In my family, if I wasn’t present, or if I was unexpectedly unable to get to them, the instructions to my children were: before you open the door to a knock or get into a car with someone, even if it was a family friend, that person needed to say the Code Word.  I even tested them one time by sending a friend to our door — who then thoroughly chastised them when they opened the door without asking “What’s the code word?”  (Yes, there was a family retraining session that evening!)

Before “I’ve snatched your child” there was the little trick, “You’re mother’s been in an accident. I’ll drive you to the hospital to see her.”  My kids were instructed to contact an uncle or aunt for help or guidance before going off with someone saying something like this, even someone claiming to be the police.

I always told my kids to call me if they were ever with other people who were doing things in which they didn’t want to participate. All they had to say was “Come get me.”  There would be no questions, no backlash.  However, an article I read made the point that sometimes kids just don’t know how to extract themselves from an uncomfortable situation or can’t figure out how to get out without losing face (which could result in some very serious hazing and bullying). So, they may stay in a bad situation rather than appear weak in front of their friends.  In this kind of situation, a code word could be used in a phone conversation when calling home to check in. 

Here’s a sample conversation I came across in which the code word for “Come get me/I need out” was “rutabaga”: “Hi, Mom.  I’m just checking in like you asked.  What’s going on at home?  Oh, yuk, you know I hate that rutabaga salad.  Noooo, Mom, I don’t want to leave yet.  Fiiiine, I’ll be ready.”  {Insert eye roll here}.

Your child’s friends think it’s all Your fault he/she is leaving but that’s ok. Your son/daughter has just managed to get out of a possibly dangerous situation without repercussions from the kids he or she was with.  Of course, nowdays, kids with cell phones can send the code word in a text.

I learned another way to use a code word from an article I read several years ago by Marjory Wildcraft.  She indicated that she and her daughter travel together a lot and, since they are often in unfamiliar places and settings, she teaches her daughter how to stay safe, practice situational awareness, and pay attention to your instincts.  Additionally, they have a code word to use when one of them feels something is not quite right and wants to alert the other that they need to get out of the situation.  She related a time she had to use their code word:

“One time, instead of taking a taxi, we got a ride from an acquaintance who I realized had drunk a little bit too much.  My daughter was quite enamored with his silliness and wanted to take him up on the offer to eat dinner together. Boy was I glad we had set up that code word ahead of time. I casually used the word in conversation and my daughter instantly knew I sensed something she didn’t.  She totally got in line with me on turning down any more offers and we politely said good bye when he dropped us off at the hotel.”

Establishing Family Code Words is not done out of fear. Code Words are one more way to guard your family’s safety and to prepare for some of the unexpected things that come up in life.

Add a comment below if you can think of Other Ways To Use Family Code Words

%d bloggers like this: