Safety Tips for Parents to Prevent Your Kids From Being Lost, Missing or Kidnapped
With Kids, You Can Never Be Too Careful
Never Turn Your Back on Your Child
A few summers ago, when my son was two years old, we went on vacation to a water park. We were waiting for my husband to pass through the entrance gates so I wanted to catch his attention for him to locate us. I made the mistake of turning my back from my little boy for literally two seconds. I knew he was right behind me when I turned to wave to my husband.
Those couple seconds were all it took for the unthinkable to happen. When I turned back around, my son was no longer behind me. I panicked, my heart beating fast and loud and my brain was buzzing, no, it felt more like it was sending off a screeching warning siren that was sounding off too late.
I looked around, scanning the area as quickly as I could, frantically jerking my eyes and head as far as I could see. In my heart, I was hoping, praying, that he or someone who snatched him up, couldn't have gone too far in a matter of that quick time frame.
Then, I spotted him being carried away by a woman. My heart jumped for a split second, wondering what was happening but then settled down, relieved, when I realized she was a park employee. She was taking him to the Information Center near the front of the park by the gates. I literally ran up to her and claimed my child.
I learned my lesson that day, one that I will never forget. I will never again turn my back on my child. You never mean for it to happen and you think that nothing could go wrong in that split second. You are wrong because for me, all of that happened within a short time span. In a few short minutes I felt various waves of emotion: panic, regret and fear of not knowing if he was okay then excitement, relief and happiness when I found him.
That happened three summers ago and thankfully, has not happened since.
Last summer, as we were leaving another theme park, there was a young boy there, maybe five or six, who was obviously lost. He was thankfully with the authorities who were questioning him, trying to get information to help him locate his parents. He looked scared and confused and my heart sank for him and his parents. I remembered the way I felt when I thought I lost my son; the panic of being uncertain, of not knowing where he was and of what could happen. I couldn't imagine how much more anguish and terrifying panic they were feeling knowing their child was lost for what appeared to us as quite some time.
Keep Your Eyes Open In Crowded Places
Prevention is Key to Keeping Kids Safe
During the summer, there are more opportunities for kids to be lost when we go out on trips or go to new places for vacation. It gets more crowded and kids get overwhelmed with excitement so they want to run around more and can't wait to get somewhere like to a ride or see an attraction at the theme park.
Here are some tips to follow and teach your children to prevent them from being lost, missing or kidnapped while on vacation or for any day of the year:
- Take a picture of your child before leaving the house whether they are going to school, going out with someone else or with you. This way, you know it's a current photo and you won't have a difficult time describing what they were wearing if something were to happen. Pictures are faster and easier to upload now thanks to camera phones and tablets so take advantage of them.
- Teach kids their address, phone number, your names and his/her full name
- Have them wear an ID band or ID bracelet, maybe even stick a piece of paper in their pocket with your information on it. This is especially important if you are going somewhere like a crowded area all day and if the child is too young to talk.
- Teach them who they can go to for help (teachers, police, security guards, store clerks, someone with a name tag or badge, etc.) and what to say.
- Show them the information/customer service area when you walk into the store. Tell them never to walk out pass the front doors of a store or restaurant alone or with someone else; to stay there if they are lost.
- Teach them how to describe you so if the authorities ask them, your child knows how to give a proper description.
- Train them to stop walking when you tell them to; play games with them to practice like "Freeze" or "red light/green light."
- Tell kids not to get out of sight from you and to walk next to you, not behind you.
- Wear the same colored tops, preferably a bright color, when you are going to places that will be crowded (like a theme park) so you can easily spot each other.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and teach your kids to do the same. If you notice someone suspicious looking at your child as if they are observing him/her, try to remove the child from their view or if you can't do that, keep a closer eye on your child and don't let him/her stray.
- Don't let your child go with strangers or don't ask strangers to keep an eye on your child for you.
- Teach your child not to talk to strangers or go anywhere with them.
- Use family rest rooms whenever possible so you can all go together or so the child can use the restroom alone without worrying that there are strangers in there (like there could be in a rest room with multiple stalls). Stand right outside the door until they are done.
- Don't let your child go in the rest room with multiple stalls alone.
- Remind your kids about all the safety measures before you go in somewhere.. Ask them to repeat it back to you and to repeat the information you taught them (your name, his name, address and phone number). Remind them to only tell that information to the people you have taught them about such as teachers and police officers - people who want to help them when they are lost.
- Keep an updated Child ID Kit at your house (you can download one at www.missingkids.com). Don't forget to update things that can help locate your kids if they ever go missing like dental records.
According to "Safety Tips for Parents" by the National Children's Advocacy Center, you should:
- Teach kids that even people they know can try to harm them so they should tell you if another family member or family friend is doing something that makes them feel bad or uncomfortable. Statistics show that kidnapping occurs more commonly with people they know compared to a total stranger.
- Teach kids not to help strangers if they ask for help such as asking to find a lost pet or for directions.
- Teach kids not to accept anything from strangers: gifts, candy, etc.
A Parent's Worse Nightmare
Have you ever had a scary moment when your child went missing?
Statistics for Missing Children and Child Abductions
According to the National Advocacy Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
- From 1983-2012, there have been 288 infant abductions (8 in 2012).
- More than 187,800 missing child cases
- 203, 900 were victims of family abductions
- 58,200 were victims of non-family abductions
Also, the National Advocacy Center for Missing and Exploited Children urge parents to participate in the Take 25 Campaign, in which you take 25 minutes to talk to kids about safety/abduction prevention. This campaign was created in commemoration of Missing Children's Day: May 25.