I don’t know a parent who hasn’t experienced it, that sinking feeling when you suddenly realize that you can’t see your child and don’t know where he or she has gotten to.
“He was here a second ago! How far could he have gotten?”
Fortunately, the child is usually found fairly rapidly but such isn’t always the case.
So how do we take our children out in public, especially in crowds, and still make sure that they are going to be safe?
We can’t guarantee that something won’t happen, but we can take some measures to keep them as safe as possible by following a few simple safety precautions.
1. Make sure that they are wearing easily identifiable clothing that is bright and easy to spot, even from a distance away. A bright yellow shirt is easier to spot in a crowd than a dull grey one. Add other identifiable accessories (brightly covered hair accessories, arm bands, reflective stripes, etc…) that’ll help you see them quickly when scanning a crowd for a child that was “there a second ago”!
2. Have identification on your child. List the child’s name, blood type, any emergency medical information as well as your contact information, a contact number for someone who is at another loacation (an aunt, grandparents, etc…) so that if they can get a hold of you they can still get a hold of someone who can help get your child home). https://ice4safety.com/purchase/ has a variety of products that are waterproof and can’t help you make sure that your child has, on him or her, all the information needed to help anyone who finds your child able to contact you.
3. If possible, get a cell phone for each child and teach them how to use it to call you if they get separated. Put your number in speed dial and show them how to dial it. Make sure they know how to answer the phone in case you are calling them. Make sure it’s in a zip up pocket or something similar where it won’t fall out.
4. Use the camera in the phone to take pictures. Take a picture of yourself for the phone that’s going to be in the child’s possession and take a photo of each of your children for yours. Take it right before you leave so that it shows the clothing they are wearing. This will make it a lot easier to the police to identify and spot your child if they need to search for him or her.
5. Make a plan ahead of time. Set up a rendez-vous point and make sure that your kids know where it is, where they will know to go if they get lost. Get down on their level to make sure they can see the landmark that you’ve designated. Make sure they understand how to get there and that they are supposed to wait there until you get there (Parents often tell kids to go to a meeting place without understanding that the child thinks the parent will be there when they get there and panic when the parent isn’t. Make sure they understand that they may get there before you do and that if that happens, they need to wait).
6. Make sure that your children know who is safe to approach for help when they are lost. Teach them what a police officer or a security guard looks like. Teach them to ask for help from someone behind a counter in a place of business if they can’t find a policeman. Make sure, however, that they understand to ask for help from a woman in this case, rather than a man (predators are typically men who are by themselves).
Make sure that you children understand to call first, to go to a meet-up spot second, etc… and they will hopefully not need to ask for help from a stranger. Teach them to look determined and walk with a purpose, not confused and lost which would draw the attention of a predator.
Kids are small. They can easily get separated in a sea of legs and follow the wrong pair of legs thinking they are still following their parent or guardian. Keep them close, especially when the crowd gets more dense. Hold their hand or carry them when possible. Failing that, however, having a backup plan to help you reconnect with your child as soon as possible if the unthinkable should happen is essential. A little foresight and preparation can turn a “uh oh!” moment from becoming a “Oh! NO!” one.