Summer is a crazy time of year. As families our kids travel with us, go biking in neighborhoods and more. We attend large events with a lot of people. With one kid or six kids it’s sometimes hard to keep their curiosity at bay.
We have all tried strapped backpacks with a lead, holding their hands, and even strapping into the stroller. But there are times as our children grow they become more independent and start to walk away from us. After recent news events and so much criticism about proper supervision it’s important we take steps to keep our kids safe in neighborhoods and public places.
How can we keep them safe?
Talking about safety with our kids is the first step. Preparing them to be independent thinkers and “players” is key. We need to prepare them for living in our neighborhoods and prepare them for large events and outings.
For Large Events
Start by preparing your child for the size of the event. Talk to them about staying close. Provide clear rules you both can follow. It might be riding in the stroller at all times. If you will allow your child out, it might be holding hands at all times. If you choose to have some hands-free time, perhaps you need a backpack with a strap. If you don’t like these ideas (or your child is too independent) you should find a solution that fits your family and parenting style. Riding on someone’s back, or on dad’s shoulders are options we have used.
The next step is providing your children with directions about what to do if they are lost. This means locating a safe spot they can get help from a trusted adult. An announcement stand at an event, a medical tent, or a police station are options to look for. You prepare them by talking to them about these locations. Identify the location when you find them at the event and discuss the plan of action if they can’t find you. This needs to be done in a clear, concise, easy to follow way.
Example: Step 1: You don’t see mommy or daddy. You look around first and yell for them. Step 2: You don’t see them and they can’t see you. You turn and walk right to the police tent which is right here – see? Step 3: You tell the police you are lost from your mommy and you give them the ID card in your pocket and ask them to call mommy.
I have created a printable ID card for your children. This card contains all of their information, as well as your contact information. Print this card on card stock fill it in and put it in your child’s pocket before an event. You can laminate the card once it is completed as well. This is the card they should be giving to the trusted adult for help.
For Neighborhoods & Other Public Places
Before heading out for the day go over safety rules and safe locations. Be sure their ID is in their pocket and they understand what it is for. Tip: You can even give them a small kids wallet. Our son loves his wallet. He likes to have his ID card in the ID location as Daddy has his!
We have made sure our son has his ID card for bike rides and going to play with a friend. We walk or ride with him on the bike now, and we have contact information for his friends. However, it’s about learning and being safe. He knows it’s there and what he needs it for. We have had a situation where he got farther away from me on a bike ride than I wanted as I was walking the dog when he rode. Although we didn’t need to use his card it was a situation where he reminded me that he knew what he needed to do. (He was still in deep for getting too far away!).
What about places in a neighborhood?
Do you have a special place you like to stop in your neighborhood on rides or walks? Is there a safe place for your child to sit off the road if they were to get injured biking? Looking for a “safe” spot in a neighborhood to go or meet if they can’t get home is great. Then you and your child know they will be there waiting for help. If they have a friend they can ask for help nearby, educate them on getting to that help spot. These options for help are things that children don’t think of without prompting. Once you get them thinking they now have a skill to problem solve tough situations.
If your child is going to a friend’s house you will likely have their information saved at home. But it’s still great to have that ID in your child’s pocket. If the other parent can’t locate your information your child can simply give them the card. If they are separated from a group of kids during play in an unfamiliar place they have that card and suggestions on how to get help.
Teaching children how to ask for help in unlikely situations is a life skill. It teaches them who to trust and how to problem solve. As parents, we never expect or imagine being lost and separated from our children. But if your child can walk you realize how quickly they move. Seconds is all it takes.
Share ways you stay safe with your family.