Nearly 20 years after being kidnapped at 14, Elizabeth Smart is beginning to talk to her own daughter about her past and how to stay safe.
It's been 18 years since Elizabeth Smart returned home after being kidnapped and held in a rugged camp for nine harrowing months. Though she has since created a successful adult life for herself and started a family, her experience as a 14-year-old is just as relevant as ever as she raises her own daughter — who Elizabeth says is now beginning to ask questions about what happened to mom.
Smart, now 33, joined Dr. Oz on the show to commemorate the anniversary of her rescue from captivity, which she continues to speak publicly about today as an advocate for child abduction and recovery. She's clearly familiar with talking about the trauma, but it gets a little tough when it comes to her daughter, Chloe.
"For me, talking about my past, because she's asking, I do want to talk to her about it, but I also don't want to scare her. I think that's an important balance to find with every child. Answer their questions, but making sure that it's age-appropriate," Smart told Oz.
While she doesn't want to scare Chloe, Smart said it's when kids become aware enough to ask about something that signals they're ready to hear it.
"Honestly, it's something I struggle with all the time, but someone actually shared the advice with me that I think it's pretty good advice, that once children start asking questions, it's the right time to start talking about it. My daughter, she did just actually have a birthday. She's now six and she does ask questions," Smart said.
Her kidnapping isn't just influencing her conversations with Chloe. Smart also said it influences the way she parents.
"It's probably causing me to be a bit of a helicopter mom, let truth be told," she said.
However, she said, her husband has become a helpful calibrator who keeps her from going overboard.
"My husband, he's pretty good at tempering me and just be like, 'It's OK. Just breathe. He's fine. Your daughter's fine. Your son is fine. They're all fine.' For me, that's been incredibly helpful, is having a levelheaded partner in life. But I always think to myself that I will never regret being there for them, but I might regret not being there for them. Having these conversations, talking about why it's important to stay safe, talking about why it's important that they tell me if they're ever scared about something, if they're ever worried about someone, and especially if someone tells them not to tell me — then that absolutely means that they should tell me," she said.
In addition to her public speaking, Smart runs the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which fights against sexual violence with resources like educational programs about abduction and self-defense training for women and girls.
For more mental health resources, Dr. Oz has them here.