According to the FBI.gov, a child goes missing every 40 seconds in America. That comes to 765,000 children a year and is quite an eye-opening statistic, one that piqued my interest from parents who say “my child wanders away from me.”
This week, my family and I, along with a few friends, were some of the 1.3 million people who turned out to support the Cleveland Cavaliers and share in the celebration at the victory parade. We’ve attended many large events in the past and my children and those who were with us, were old enough to know the basics of safety. But this was different; this was an enormous crowd amassed over just a handful of city blocks.
During breakfast, we had “the talk,” the same talk we shared two years ago when we traveled to Washington DC for the 4th of July fireworks held on the National Mall with a half million other celebrants.
We knew the parade event, just like the fireworks event, would entail a lot of waiting for public transit in crowded, long lines, and other folks may not be as considerate as we would be with their behavior. My kids knew they could be pushed, bumped, feet stepped on and squished. Our talk went something like this:
“Ok, there will be a lot of people–it will be crowded and you may not be able to always hear me or hear each other. It is important–really important, that while we are in a line or moving through the crowd, that we hold hands, adults at the beginning and end of our family line. If one hand is let go, the whole line of us stops.” We also had the “other” talk, and that was what to do in a ‘situation,’ such as gunshot, fire, or an act of crowd terror and screaming. That will be addressed in my next blog and one that also occurred during the parade, though fortunately, we were not in that area.
There were 45 kids lost during the Cavaliers parade according to an article by Cleveland WKYC TV 3, Happily, all were reunited by the end of the day and much of that was due to the quick response by the families, children and police, who all had an action plan.
What can you do to be pro-active and reduce your risk if your child is always wandering away?
These are two great ideas, courtesy of parents.com, that I had not thought of:
- Go bold.
Dress your child in an easy-to-spot color like orange or neon green, and consider vibrant hats and bows, since they’re easier to see in a crowd. A bright color may also detract predators, since they tend to avoid kids who draw attention. Don’t forget to mark your stroller, especially if you’re using a theme park-provided one that looks like dozens of others. The last thing you want is for someone to accidentally walk off with it while your child is sleeping inside (it happens!). Tie on a big flower or bow that will make your stroller easily identifiable as your own.
- Take a “before” shot.
Snap a picture of your little one with your phone before you head out. Many theme parks have the technology to send a digital picture to every security officer’s phone. It will help if you can’t remember exactly what your child was wearing. In a moment of panic, parents always forget.
Crucial Info to Teach Your Child at Every Age
4 YEARS AND UNDER
- Their first and last name, the first thing an employee will ask your child when she’s lost.
- Your full name. If he knows you only as “Mommy,” you can’t be paged by name.
- Don’t go anywhere with, accept anything from, or get into a car with anyone. Never, without your permission, period.
- Your cell-phone number. You can be reunited more quickly if you get separated.
- A “safe list.” Instead of saying, “don’t talk to strangers,” list three to five people who are always okay for your child to talk to.
8 YEARS AND UP
- An easy-to-find meeting place — the more specific the location, the better — if you get separated.
- A buddy or a sibling to come along to places (like a restroom) your child is starting to visit independently. There’s more safety in numbers.
- To beware of grown-ups asking for help, and to never approach a car. Tell your child to yell loudly if anyone tries to make him go somewhere.
I like the information on MissingKids.org. The site provides a wealth of resource information for parents of children who wander away and tools to help ensure you are able to talk to your children.
Enjoy your summer, have fun with your children and by adopting these simple rules and reminders, you will help your wandering child stay safe.
Does your child wander away from you? Have you discovered a tip or technique that works for your family? Share your insight – we would love to hear from you and possibly feature your story in an upcoming blog.
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