This article in our situational awareness series will give you information on how to keep your young children safe while out in public.

Whether you are the parent, grandparent, or guardian of a child, take a moment and imagine the following scenario:

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You are in a Mall and your phone rings. It is your spouse and they need your help because they can’t find your child. You run across the mall frantically looking for your child and your heart feels like it’s going to explode out of your chest. You can’t find her anywhere and it’s hard to see anything with the large crowd of people. Your eyes go to the EXIT doors and bad thoughts spill into your mind. It’s been five minutes and there is no sign of her. You panic…

Have you taught your child what to do if they get lost?

Do you know what steps to take if your child is missing?

If you answered “no” to either of these questions, what would you give at this moment to be able to jump into a time machine to go back and make sure you and your child had a plan of action?

The following tips are simple and can be taught to your child in less than five minutes. Some recommendations are age dependent:

  1. Discuss a location to meet should you get split up. Make sure they know the name of the location and have them repeat the name to you. The location needs to be easily understood by others. Examples: fish tank, service desk, kid’s park etc…
  2. You need to know where your child is at all times if he/she is under the age of eight. Do not trust that your child will stay by you just because you told them. Children get easily distracted and it is normal for them to wander off. It’s hard to shop and watch at the same time, so you may need someone else along to help.
  3. Teach your child that if they are lost to find a woman and preferably a woman who has children with her.
  4. Inform your child to NEVER go outside or to a different location with a stranger even if the stranger says they know where the parents are located.
  5. Educate your child to scream, “He is not my father or she is not my mother!”, if someone tries to take him/her outside or to a different location. Most onlookers will not stop to help a child if they are only yelling, “No, no!”, because it appears to be a disciplinary problem.
  6. Go to an employee or service desk to have them announce a description of your child that is missing over the intercom. It is very important to know exactly what your child is wearing. Do not wait too long to do this.
  7. Dress your child in brightly colored clothing so it is easy to spot them.
  8. Be very careful and at an arms-length with little ones around elevators because the doors can close before you can get to them.
  9. Put a harness on your very young child if the location is crowded.
  10. Invest in a wearable GPS tracker for your child. A list of trackers is located here.
  11. Avoid exposing your children to negative television news coverage. Our media actively reports on the increasing acts of violence in our world and children’s exposure to violent news stories can cause unnecessary chronic fear that is very unhealthy for a developing child.

We cannot change or get rid of all the dangerous people in the world, but we can protect our lives and others if we know how to deal with predators.

Build a world for your child that teaches them how to use their natural intuition if something dangerous arises. When a child recoils from certain strangers, there may be a reason. Teach them to trust their instincts; it is important they understand what intuition is and to honor their feelings. Teaching your children to follow the steps indicated in the guideline above will give them confidence and a plan of action.

The above scenario happened to my family when we lost one of our twins in a matter of a few seconds in a very crowded mall before Christmas. I am thankful I trained her to go to a woman for help if she was ever lost, because my daughter found a family to help her find us and we found them right as they were getting to the service desk.

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I will be completely honest with you, those frantic minutes I spent looking for my daughter was sheer hell.

Use this guide to teach your children what to do if they get lost, and develop your plan of action so you may experience a positive outcome in the event you are unable to find your child in a crowded public place. 

We wish you and your family a very safe, healthy, happy and successful Holiday season! 

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