The holiday season is a joyful time of year, but it’s also a time to be a little extra cautious when it comes to your child’s safety. Between busy trips to the mall for holiday shopping, crowded airports, and holiday parties, it can be challenging to keep track of your kids in the crowds.
Here are 12 holiday tips that will help parents ensure that their children stay protected this holiday season:
1. Talk to your kids before a family outing. Make a rule that you must always be able to see them and they must always be able to see you. Wear clothes that will make it easy for both of you to recognize each other in a group. It may sound simple, but keep reminding them periodically, especially if you think they’re getting restless can prevent a bad situation.
2. Use the “two giant steps” rule — your kids can never be more than two giant steps away from you. It’s a fun and easy way for young children to remember not to wander away. Periodically test them and make it a fun game so they will stay focused.
3. Teach your kids that if they ever become separated from you, they should look for a “safe stranger” for help. Some examples include a mom with kids, police officer or security guard, or a cash register person. With older children, agree on a “meeting place” ahead of time, in case you become separated. If they have a cell phone, make sure the location services are turned on.
4. Tell you child never to leave the mall or store to go looking for you, no matter what anyone tells them. Remind your child that you would never leave until you are reunited.
5. Dress you and your child in brightly colored clothes to make it easy to be spotted.
6. In busy places like airports or shopping malls, consider using a cute harness for toddlers who are prone to running off. There are lots of fun ones out there that look like a lion’s tail or an elephant’s trunk. Your child’s safety is most important, so don’t worry about what others think.
7. Establish the “check first” rule with older children. They must always check first with you before going anywhere in a public place, including another store, play area, or even the restroom. Be open to giving them a little freedom. Show you trust them and they will be less likely to rebel and wonder off.
8. Don’t treat public facilities as a “convenient babysitter.” Do not leave your children alone at video arcades, movie theaters, play areas, or other public places. Predators are known to look for unsupervised kids.
9. Always bring young children into the restroom with you and do not let them go to the restroom by themselves. You never know who is in a public bathroom.
10. Statistically, the men’s room isn’t the safest place for a child to use alone. If you feel comfortable letting your older child (at least 9 years old) use the men’s room alone, stand outside the door and call in as your child enters, “I’m right out here if you need me.” It’s a clear signal to anyone who may be hanging around in there that there’s a parent close by. Your child is less of a target if a potential predator thinks there’s a chance he could be caught. If you think your child’s taking too long, open the door and call in, “Is everything okay?” If you don’t get an answer or are unsure, enter the restroom immediately to be sure your child is safe. (Informing your child that you’ll be doing this will encourage him to answer you quickly and not linger.)
11. Discuss age-appropriate safety issues with your child in a calm, non-fearful manner. Replace the word “strangers” with “tricky people.” Let your child know that it isn’t what people look like that makes them unsafe; it’s what they ask a child to do that makes someone “thumbs down.” Kids have been known to leave with a stranger because “he seemed nice” or “she didn’t look like a stranger.”
12. Make sure that your child knows your cell phone number and your first/last name. You would be surprised what they will forget when they are nervous or upset.
Even if you only use a few of these safety tips, you could easily avoid a bad situation.
Happy Holidays and Stay Safe!