My children ask me all the time to take them to the playgrounds or any other public place. I can’t help but think that the risk involved in this is greater than we are often aware of. I have four children, which makes the task of keeping track of everyone very stressful. For me, taking my children to a public place is no longer “a walk in the park.” In fact, I feel like I’m a bit traumatized. My 8 year old son, (a very active little boy), has gotten lost 3 times in public places. Once in a large department store at the age of 3, again in a nature park where he took off on his bike alone at the age of 4 and the last time at a crowded public fair at the age of 5. He has always been safe and sound.
Young children are very unpredictable. Their logic is very different from ours. They tend to forget the importance of being close to you and are very easily distracted.
How many times have you taken your children to a playground and suddenly you no longer see them, you start looking for them and your heart begins to pound. Fortunately, you finally see them walk away without realizing the panic attack you just had. It all happens in seconds, but it seems like forever until you finally see your precious children again. But for how many parents is this not the case? How many of them never find their son who was by their side a minute ago? Who had just been seen playing on the playground a second ago?
What can we do as parents to prevent this tragedy from happening to our family? The best we can do is be prepared and take some simple precautions and do everything possible to prevent this terrible thing from happening.
Every time you go to a public place with young children, keep these 10 tips in mind:
1. Remind them of the importance of being close to you and always informing you where they are going. This may seem very simple, but the best way not to lose your children is to have them close to you at all times.
2. Teach them the importance of keeping a safe distance from you. If they can’t see you, they are no longer at a safe distance.
3. Pick a meeting place that you know they can remember in case they get lost. If the children are too young, it might be a better idea to tell them to stay where they realized they were lost. Most of the time you are not too far from them. But if they start looking for you, it will be much more difficult to find them.
4. If you are in a mall or department store, identify the staff uniform and the security guard uniform with your children. Ask them to look for you if they feel lost.
5. Teach them not to talk to strangers. It is unfortunate that we have to teach our children to avoid talking to strangers, but the truth is that, in today’s world, it is no longer safe to let your children speak freely to a stranger.
6. If your children are old enough to memorize phone numbers, review basic family information, such as their home phone number, their cell phone number, and their address. Also, give them some change in case they need to call you from a pay phone.
7. Memorize the clothes they are wearing. If it’s easier for you, put similar colors on all of your children. During a panic attack, you feel confused enough to forget even what your child is wearing.
8. Put a card in one of your pockets with all the basic information: your name, your child’s name, phone number, cell phone numbers, and address. Even if the child is able to memorize this information, they will also panic and may forget everything. Do not post this information in a conspicuous place, as a kidnapper could use this to create a family atmosphere by calling the child by his or her own name. It is also important to avoid any clothing item that contains your child’s name.
9. Choose library books that teach children why it is so important not to talk to strangers, and once you have finished reading, take some time to discuss the content with your children. You can ask them questions to make sure they understand the message. You can also play the “what if” game and let them figure out what to do in a certain imaginary dangerous situation.
10. Last but not least, talk about the dangers of a young child these days. Unfortunately, we have to give our children some tools to defend themselves in the event of an attempted kidnapping. They must know what to do in order to act quickly. They should not converse with any stranger. If the stranger insists on talking to them, they should leave immediately and ignore the person. They should not volunteer to give information or instructions to a stranger. They must also know the tricks of kidnappers to lure a child. They could use a cute puppy or ask them to find a lost puppy. They could use delicious candy or attractive toys. They can seem very friendly or they can even look like adorable grandmothers.
During the first time my son got lost in the department store, I kept thinking about all the things we should have done to prevent this from happening. When they finally found it, I thought this would be the first and last time this would happen. I was so scared at the thought of losing my son again that I did very little to prepare him for a similar incident. When it happened the second time, I realized the importance of having a plan in place. I also realized that fear gets you nowhere. You must act before it is too late. Once your child is lost, he is alone. If he has not been prepared to deal with this situation, the only hope you will have is to trust in his own ability to find you. Nothing can guarantee that our children will not get lost. But if at least your child has a way to help himself when you can’t. This could save your life quite well.