A Safe Word :: Giving Kids an Escape Route


Once upon a time, I was the kid who sought out mischief. 

When summer comes around, the “schools out” mentality combined with all the festivals and sunshine mean lots of free time and for kids of a certain age, a chance to flex those muscles of independence. 

It doesn’t feel like so long ago that I was one of these kids and it is that memory that guides a fair amount of my parenting. It is those experiences that made me implement a safe word/question conversation with my kids at a young age. 

safe word

The Importance of a Safe Word or Question

The first time I created a safe question, was when my little sister was 17. She was going to a party, and I was a concerned older sister. We had a conversation earlier in the day, and I said if you at any point feel the need to leave, you call me and ask if the dog is still sick. No questions asked, I would jump in the car, retrieve her and drop her safely at home. She didn’t need it that night, or many nights thereafter, but one night a number of months later she called in the wee hours of the morning and asked how the dog was. I was out of bed and into my car in a second. 

When my own daughter was entering middle school we had a discussion about the possibility of using this plan. She was at first hesitant, defensive a little. I explained to her this was a no consequence escape plan. I saw her sweet, innocent eyes not truly be able to compute in what world would she need a way to contact me in code, but she agreed. The question was a benign one, something that would not arouse suspicion or send up any flares to those who might be around her.

We, unfortunately, live in a world where our children’s safety is no longer just about car seats and airbags.

With the inception of the internet and social media, our kids are put into much more precarious and compromising situations younger and younger. Since this is a fact of life now, parents have to adapt and not look at the world from the view they had but the one that is reality. Kids are still kids, but they are existing in a much more mature world that for some unforgiving reason expects them to keep up with it. 

The safe word allows our kids to know we are in this with them.

We cannot possibly protect them from everything, but having a way out…for them, keeps us relevant. Keeps us still in the room when something is happening that makes our kids uncomfortable. It’s the voice in their head, that there is always an escape hatch no matter what. Even if it’s just a bad fight with a good friend. It is the security blanket. 

My kids have not had to use the safe question many times, but the times they did they were relieved and grateful it was there. I believe that sometimes the sheer existence of something often outweighs the actual necessity, because really just existing in the first place is often enough.

Do you have a Code Word of some sort with your kids? Tell us more about how you are keeping your older kids safe! 


  1. My oldest is just getting to the age of going places on his own, with friends. I am so worried about what situation he might get himself into. My mom gave me a safe word when I was a teen. Thank you for reminding me! I’m definently going to do the same with my sons.

  2. We have had a “code word” since they could talk.
    They know if someone asks to take them home, tells them me or their Dad sent them, or whatever….even if they know this person, they know to ask, “What’s the CODE WORD?” If they don’t say it immediately, do not go with them.
    It’s a name my family made up many many years ago. There’s no guessing it or mid pronuncing it.

    And it works too!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here