[Editor’s note: This is a 6-part series regarding my views and plenty of common sense on how to keep your children safe in a dangerous world. It is generally geared toward children 12 and under. I hope it helps you.]
This last Saturday we took our kids (along with nieces and nephews who ranged from age 3 to 12) to a local indoor water-park called Coco Key. Because it’s a very busy and public place I got to thinking about what I naturally do to better prepare my children for the experience. While they’re thinking about splashing around and having a blast, I’m thinking about keeping them safe, exits, and strangers! So, I thought I would share a few things that we did and what went through my mind. Obviously, most of this should be common sense for you as a parent but it never hurts to be reminded.
As with anything a good prepper does, it’s starts with planning and prevention. In this case, it’s about laying a good ground-work for your expectations of your children. Sure, you’ve probably given them the same speech a thousand times over but the one time you didn’t they’ll most certainly use that as their excuse for why they didn’t do what you expected.
As such, you should set you expectations beforehand. In our case, it was things like you’re expected to be wither another person at all times, younger kids with an adult, older kids with each other, etc. This is probably something they’ll do naturally but I like to ensure everyone understands. Some might call this the “buddy system” and is a great way to make sure each child feels responsible for the other one.
Though I didn’t bother to do so for this outing, it couldn’t hurt to have the “stranger danger” talk. Looking back, the place was VERY busy with tons of people everywhere so I probably should have said something to my boys (as well as the other kids) but I didn’t.
We also made sure the kids knew where out meet-up place was (a specific table) so that if they were to get separated then they could come back to that spot. If you have very young children then it’s probably best to teach them not to panic and run around trying to find you but that YOU will find THEM. In other words: STAY PUT! Once they get a bit older then a meet-up spot is a good idea.
It might also be wise to take a quick photo with your smartphone that day so you can describe to others what you kid looks like and, more importantly, what they’re wearing OR dress them in something that really stands out such as that bright orange shirt you bought and thought was so cute that little Jimmy just refuses to wear. 😉
I also made sure they knew that if for some reason nobody arrived at our designated meet-up spot then they can and should got to a specific place to ask the people who worked there for help (and explain uniforms they will be wearing) and NOBODY else… not even if they offered because, while 99.9% of people are probably well-meaning, it’s the 0.01% that you can’t trust. Teach your kids the actions you want them to take.
While I’m thinking about it, I did take a moment in the beginning to point out where the exits were. I know this is something the kids probably glossed over but I feel better that they are (1) aware that there are more exits other than the main entrance that we came through and (2) recognize that if there is a real reason to get out, such as a fire, then they have the permission and expectation to get out on their own rather than to run around looking for me or another adult that was with us.
Although we didn’t have our cell phones on us (because we were swimming) it’s always wise to ensure children know at least one cell phone number that they can relay to an adult so they can contact us if it ever came to that need. Though I’ve never done so myself, I’ve heard of people actually “tagging” their children with something that contains the parent’s cell phone number such as with a luggage tag attached to a belt loop. Maybe this idea would work great for very young children.
What about leashes for your very young kids? I’ve never felt like my children were pets so I can’t say how well they work but I would imagine there’s a stage in life that they might come in handy. By the way, have you ever seen a cat on a leash before? Do a YouTube search for “cat on leash” or “cat on leash goes crazy”… it’s hilarious if you ask me.
Again, proper public safety is about setting the expectations, having the constant conversations even though you’ve done it a thousand times before, and then eventually trusting your kids to do what you expect.
If you have your own suggestions feel free to share them below…