Soldiers are taught secret code phrases so that if they are ever captured, they can let the military know that they are saying something against their will, if they’re forced to do a video tape. It may be how often they blink, or don’t blink, or which way their eyes move, or how they tap their fingers. That way anyone analyzing the video can get info without the captors knowing what’s really going on.

Not to be an alarmist, but it’s a good idea for our kids to have secret code words, too. If they’re ever in a situation where they have to tell us something’s wrong, without being able to say the words, you want those code phrases.

Your secret code word could be something innocuous, like “sure do love ya”, which they would never normally say just that way, but which doesn’t sound like they’re asking for help. As my kids are getting to be teens, we’ve decided to implement this, so that if they’re ever at a party or a friend’s house, and they’re feeling uncomfortable and want to come home, they can let me know without having to say it out loud.

But you could also use it in more nefarious situations, like in the case of a real kidnapping.

You can also use secret code words to let kids know they’re safe. Christina Fielder had such a code word with her mom when she was little, based on Gary Gnu, their favourite fictional character.

We thought it was just silly until one day, our mom actually enforced it. My brother and I went to a local Catholic elementary school, where all the moms were prompt in picking their children up after the last bell rang. So, as time passed, and we were the only ones sitting on the school steps for what seemed like hours, a car pulled up. It was our mom’s PTA friend, who we did not know very well. She said she was there to pick us up because my mom had an emergency to take care of. My brother and I were hesitant, as we knew we weren’t supposed to get into a car with anyone unless our mom said it was OK. My brother and I profusely refused the ride, until she uttered the words, “Gary Gnu,” and with that, we hopped in.

She relates the story of a teen who was recently killed, who called her parents twice before her murder, but her parents didn’t pick up on anything in her voice. She was probably trying to figure out a way to signal them, but couldn’t.

So it’s important to have these secret code words with our kids. I know we don’t want to alarm them, but it’s just part of living in the modern world. And I think kids tend to feel more confident if they feel as if they have tools at their disposal.

Tonight, at dinner, why not talk about it? Make a game out of it, and role play it. Create a code word. You never know when it might prove awfully handy.

What do you think? Do you have a secret code word with your kids?

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