Keeping Kids Safe: Preventing Lost Children
As a parent, we have all had that sickening feeling in our stomachs. You turn your head briefly and look back and your child is gone! Usually they are found in a couple of minutes, but the knot in your stomach lasts for hours. What if they had wandered off and gotten lost?
This fear is compounded when you are visiting a crowded place, such as a zoo or amusement park, or even a busy shopping center. Your child doesn't know the place well, and it can be scary to look around and see so many people and unfamiliar locations. It's easy for the child and the parent to get overwhelmed quickly.
There are many ways to alleviate that fear when taking your children to a crowded, busy place. Although there are things you can do while there, the best advice is to prepare ahead of time and make sure you and your kids know what to expect and how to react.
Research the Place You Are Visiting
Most public places such as amusement parks, museums, and zoos have information on their web sites regarding safety. Before you visit, review the site and make sure you understand their policies and procedures regarding lost children.
Talk with your children ahead of time about what to do if they get lost. Look at a map of the site together, and talk about what the people who work there look like (name tags, logo shirts, etc.). Let your child know how to find someone who works there and what, specifically, they should tell the employee when they are lost.
If there are information or help centers throughout the location, be sure to point them out to your children so they can find one if needed.
Teach Children What To Do if They Get Lost
Does your child know what to do if they get lost? Many parents believe their children do, but many actually do not! However, if you practice with them, it will be second nature in the fearful moment of being lost. Here are some tips:
Practice various scenarios with them, and tell them in specific terms what they should do in each scenario. For example, practice what to do if they look around and don't see you, and what to do if a someone they don't know approaches them. These are different scenarios with different responses, and should be practiced individually. The more you talk about it and practice, the more your child will react on instinct if it ever happens. It is critical that parents talk openly and often with their kids about safety, not to scare them but to prepare them.
More Tips for Preparing Your Kids
Safety in Public Places
Before going to a crowded public place, make sure your children know their full name, their parents' names, and their parents' cell phone numbers. You should also make sure your children know what you are wearing that day so they can describe you to an employee helping to locate you.
No matter what you teach your children, sometimes fear can make them afraid or unable to act on your instructions. you can prepare for situations like these by having your children carry information that will assist employees in finding you. For example, temporary tattoos can hold contact information for you. Or, for a less expensive solution, try these great shoe tags!
Helpful Links About Child Safety
Teach Children What To Do if a Stranger Approaches Them
I actually don't like the use of the word "stranger" in discussions with children. "Strangers" sound like scary looking people, which is usually not the case. I prefer to use the phrase "someone you don't know well." This emphasizes the truth, which is that a dangerous stranger could be a sweet-looking lady with a big smile.
When talking about encounters with people they don't know well, here are some tips:
- Stay with your friends or parents - avoid playing or walking alone in public places. Use the buddy system.
- A dangerous person can be someone you recognize, and may even know your name. That doesn't mean they are safe.
- Stay a safe distance from people you don't know well.
- If someone you don't know well approaches you, run away from them and yell loudly. Run toward other people, and yell "No!" or "Help!". Tell your parent or an employee of the location that someone approached you.
- Fight back and yell if someone you don't know well tries to touch or grab you.
Preparing ahead of time, reviewing procedures with your kids, and knowing the location can make visits to amusement parks, malls, zoos, and other crowded places more fun and safe for all.