In the coming months families everywhere will be making plans to get away for Spring Break vacation, Memorial Day getaways and, of course, summer trips. When going away during a busy travel time to a place many other families will be going, the chance of losing a child becomes a very real possibility and can happen in a split second. The mere thought of losing a child in a crowded place is a parent’s worst nightmare. Here are a few tips to help keep your kids safe if they get separated from you whether you’re at a mall, water park, theme park or tourist spot.
· Create an Action Plan—Make sure your family has an action plan so that your kids know exactly what to do in the event you get separated whether it’s the grocery store or Disney World. Create a clear cut strategy so your child will panic less and feel more able to handle the situation. If necessary, write the info down and have them put it in their pocket with your cell phone number. Always determine a place to meet at any location you’re going such as the information desk.
· Check Out Your Destination Ahead of Time—Before making any plans or reservations, check out the hotel, theme park or wherever you’re planning to go beforehand with an app like BeenVerified. You can get a snapshot of what the neighborhoods are like surrounding the hotel you’ve selected or if there are sex offenders living in the area.
· All Hands on Deck—If you’ll be traveling with your kids alone, call in a favor from your village of family and friends to see if someone can join you. Assign an adult to each child so no one will ever assume someone else is watching a particular child. If the place you’re going will be swamped with people, an extra set of hands is always a blessing.
· Keep Young Kids Close—The child leash gets a bad rap, but for ages 3-5 they can come in very handy. It’s about safe parenting not someone else’s opinion. A child leash allows freedom while also insuring their safety. The same rule of thumb goes for putting an older child in a stroller.
· Look for the Helpers—Teach your kids who to look for in the event of an emergency. Statistically the person who is least likely to harm a child and offer the most support is a woman with children. So encourage your child to find a mom with kids and ask her for help. Also point out an employee so your child can see what the uniforms look like. Other good helpers are police officers and security guards.
· Provide Your Children with I.D.—It’s best not to include your child’s name visibly so your child isn’t lured away by a stranger calling their name, but do provide them with a phone number. You can order child I.D. safety tattoos from SafetyTat.com. Safety tattoos are fun and colorful kids temporary tattoos that are applied to the arm of your child. They provide a highly visible form of identification that stays in place even when wet. You can include your mobile number and the place you are staying. You can also write your mobile number on your child’s arm in a Sharpie marker.
· Additional Child Identification—Prepare identification for all your children that includes age, your mobile phone number, any other adults traveling with you and the number of someone who is not with the group as a backup. Also include their name, DOB, blood type, allergies and medical conditions, height and weight. Insert into a plastic envelope and put inside one of their pockets.
· Take a Current Photo on Your Phone—Before you leave the house or hotel, take a photo of your kids with your phone. In the event you get separated, you can easily provide a current photo as well as identify what your kids are wearing by pulling the photo up on your phone.
· Wear Bright Matching Colors—When going to a crowded spot full of people, have your entire family wear t-shirts of the same bright color that makes them easily identifiable and helps you keep track of them easier. They may not be the most fashionable but finding your kids quickly in a big crowd makes it worth it.
· Grab Hotel Business Cards—If you’re staying in a hotel, grab a few business cards and write your mobile phone number on the card. Give one to each child to put in their pocket. If you get separated, they can show the card to a helper who can then get in touch with you or return your child to the hotel if necessary.
· Use KidTracker for Older Kids—For tweens and teens with mobile phones, download the app KidTracker to your phones. This way you’ll always be able to find your child. For children old enough to handle the responsibility, you can pick up an affordable pay-as-you-go phone and put enough money on it for the trip. It can then be used for any situation where you want to keep in communication with your kids. Although mobile phones are very helpful, they aren’t always reliable. Have an alternative plan in case the cell phone doesn’t work.
· Encourage Your Kids to Yell—Chances are if you get separated from your kids, they aren’t too far away. If they cannot see the adults you came with, encourage them to yell out the names of the people they came with by first name (“mom” gets lost in a sea of kids also yelling for mom). Tell your kids they are allowed to yell anywhere if they’re lost, like a library, movie theater or restaurant.
· Practice, Practice, Practice—Each time you are off on an adventure with your kids, practice first names and how to describe you and anyone else traveling with you along with the action plan you’ve created. Because children’s perspectives and understandings are constantly changing, it is important to review the safety action plan each time.
Justin Lavelle is the Communications Director for BeenVerified.com. The company helps people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives. It is a great tool to keep your kids and family safe, by giving you access to information about neighborhoods and people interacting with your child. BeenVerified is a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses, property records and criminal records in a way that’s fast, easy and affordable.