It’s your worst nightmare. Losing a child in a crowd even for a second, wondering if your child is safe when they walk somewhere alone and letting your child have more independence are just a few things that scare parents. We’ve got a few ways to help your child be safe, and help you keep your sanity.
Make A Plan
Kids get lost in big crowds. They wander away to look at something, and suddenly they’re lost. Talk to your kids about what to do in case this happens. Put a plan in place so you both aren’t lost scrambling at the last minute. If you get separated, they should know relevant information. Have them memorize their full name, the name of all family members, their address, and your cell phone number. Tell them to always call 911 if there is an emergency. If you’re in a crowded area together like a festival or amusement park, talk about a meeting place. Tell them to go for help if they feel scared, but always go to the meeting location to wait until the others in the group to get there.
It’s sad that you even have to teach children that some strangers are dangerous. Overall, most people are just people enjoying their day. The problem is there’s always good where there’s bad. Advise children to be careful of strangers. They may seem like nice people, but you cannot always tell if someone is good or bad by their cover. Be realistic about strangers, but don’t scare kids into thinking everyone is scared. Point out helpers like the police and firefighters so they know to go to them if they have a problem. Advise them never to get in a car with anyone, even if they know their name or claim to know their family. You can even have a safe word that if someone doesn’t know, the child will know not to go anywhere with them.
Public Restroom Safety
It’s up to each parent to know at what age they are okay to go to the public restroom by themselves. Talking to them about safety in public restrooms may seem silly, but it’s often a private facility in the middle of a public place so there are not usually many people in the restroom. This could cause an issue. Tell them never to talk to strangers when they are in the restroom. Boys should use a stall instead of a urinal for more privacy – many types of urinal dividers can only offer limited privacy. It’s okay for parents to stand outside the room door or peek in to see if everything is okay. If a family restroom is available, tell them that is the best possible choice. Tell them to always be on alert for anything out of the ordinary in the restroom. It’s a place to do your duty and get out.
Encourage Safety in Numbers
Talk to your children about always being with friends. Explain it isn’t safe to go anywhere alone. The playground might seem like a safe, fun place to play, but there could be “bad” people lurking just waiting for those that are alone. Tell them even in crowds of friends it can be dangerous to go into an abandoned building or dark alley. Teach them about the safe routes in their neighborhood to walk, and always be home by dark. Tell them about your friends in the area and show them their homes in case they get lost or scared.
Some parents like to debate that a mobile GPS isn’t a good thing as it is used to track children which is unethical to some. For others, mobile GPS gives parents peace of mind. There are small tracking devices you can stick in a child’s pocket or backpack. There are also watches and other larger GPS systems. Some of these tracking devices simply alert you if your child is too far away from you in the vicinity. These GPS systems give many parents peace of mind to know where their child is at all times. It is up to each parent to decide at what age it is infringing on the child’s privacy.
Is It Worth The Risk?
Always ask yourself in regards to safety if the place you are taking them is worth the risk. A trip to the grocery store or shopping center might be a bit different than taking them to a music festival or amusement park. Make sure you and the child are ready to face big crowds and take the risk of getting lost in big crowds. If you’re going to a place where you have to push and shove to stand up, it might be difficult for a child to stay by your side. Even if you’re on high alert, it’s easy to lose a child in the middle of a million people. If you’re able to make a plan and trust one another, you can then make the decision if you’re ready for a big crowd.
Talk About Safety Regularly
Make safety a top priority in discussion with your children. Talk about it regularly so it is always on their mind. Don’t let them fear the world, but always tell them realistically about what could happen to them. Let them understand bad things do happen to children. Explain it’s rare, but it’s best to always be on alert and know about these things to take a proactive approach.