So March break is coming up soon for the kiddies. Museums, zoos, aquariums and libraries alike will be packed with little hands, feet and faces milling all about. Parents will be pulling their hair out trying to keep it together over all of the noise and hussle and bustle of the fun filled days of trying to keep the little ones busy. Brings to mind some Dr. Suess “oh the places we’ll go, the people we’ll see”. The kids love March break and I mean what’s not to love as a kid? No school, perhaps a later bedtime, a little bit of tv watching, some goodies and the day trips – awesome!!! The parents though have a whole other set of feelings – maybe some anxiety over what to do with the kids, how to keep them occupied, what to feed them, money being spent and the biggest fear of all…”stranger danger”.
When we take our kids out of their normal routine we have to remember that they may not remember everything we tell them (it’s kind of like walking into a grocery store that isn’t your own…you get all discombobulated. The common sense is in there…you know where everything is grouped together but it takes you a while to find your way.) Your kids probably know what to do in an emergency or if they get lost or if someone tries to “get” them but we have to be sure to prepare them for the craziness of the March break outings. Here are some simple tips to keep you sane and your kids safer.
1. Be sure on the day of the outing to take a picture on your phone of your child in the clothes that they are wearing. This will ensure you have an up to date photo and you won’t have to try to remember what they are wearing if they go missing and you are panicking. If you have a photo of yourself that is current give it to your child to put in their pocket to show someone if they are lost to help find you.
2. Be sure that your child has your phone number memorized and that they know their address and your names. Be sure they know about 911 and that it’s ok to call it if it’s an emergency.
3. Just in case your child does not know the information in number 2 place a small slip of paper in the pocket of their pants with your information on it in the event they are lost. Make sure that they know it’s in there.
4. Have a “safe word”. A word that is unique to your family that would not be easy for a stranger to guess but something your child will easily remember. Make sure that your child knows that any person that approaches them and says that they know you must know the safe word.
5. Ensure that your child knows what to do if they get lost. Tell them to look for a police officer or an employee in a uniform of where you are. Tell them to look for “mommies” with children. The theory is that a mom with small children is not likely to be a dangerous person to approach (i.e. a kidnapper) and they will be able to help them.
6. Devise a plan for what they will do if someone tries to take them. Tell them to yell as loud as they can “you’re a stranger” “I don’t know you” “kidnapper” or something that will direct attention to them and that will alert people that they are not just a kid having a melt down.
7. If you have multiple children out together try dressing them in the same colour shirt as one another so you remember which colour you’re looking for.
8. Make sure your kids know to go for the eyes and the crotch if they have to fight and to never be afraid to hit someone that is trying to take them somewhere. Tell them to kick, scream, bite and run.
9. Ensure that they know they are never to take candy, toys, stickers or anything from strangers. If a stranger asks for help they are never to help look for a lost child, puppy or kitty. They aren’t to help give directions or look at pets if someone calls them over. Tell them that a grown up should be asking another grown up for help.
10. Give them enough freedom and independence within your limits so that they don’t want to run off in rebellion to try and feel like a “bigger” kid. Let them walk freely if they want to instead of holding your hand or stroller all the time. Let them run up a little ahead as long as they are still in your sight. Make sure that they know not to run off with other kids alone either.
The most important thing to do is to talk to your kids and answer questions they may have because they may be frightened when you talk about “stranger danger”. It is better to have a slightly frightened but aware child than one that has no idea what to do in a situation of being lost or in the event that someone may be trying to abduct them.
We hope everyone has a fun, safe and happy March break.