By Rob Baquera
November is the start of the holiday shopping season. So, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Ramadan, you will likely find yourself out shopping at some point with kids in tow. As hard as you try to keep your children near you, they can get distracted by something they find fascinating and be out of sight in no time.
Here are some safety precautions parents should consider taking when out with their children this holiday season.
Take a picture of your child on the day of the outing. This way, you will know their clothing and hairstyle, and you will have an up-to-date photo should you need it. Consider dressing your child in brightly colored clothing. This will make it easier for them to be seen.
Use the “two giant steps” rule. Your child can never be more than two giant steps away from you, and you should always be able to see him/her. It is a fun way for a young child to remember not to wander off.
Be sure your child has your cell phone number. If your child is too young to memorize it, write the digits on a piece of paper and put it in their pocket, or write your number on their arm or a wristband. This way, anyone who finds him/her will be able to contact you right away.
If age-appropriate, make sure your child knows their full name and your full name.
Teach your kids what to do if they ever get separated from you. First, they should go to the last place they saw you and call out your name. If they cannot find you, they should look for a “safe” person to ask for help like a store worker or security guard. Tell them to never leave the store/mall without you. Let them know you would never leave without them.
If you have older children and you allow them to venture out on their own, make sure they have a friend or sibling with them. Have them check in with you regularly via text or phone. Make sure to agree on a “meeting place” and time.
When you go to a busy place, ask your child, “Who works here?” Help your child identify employees or store security guards. Make sure they can tell you how to identify an employee (radio on their belt, wearing a particular shirt, or a store name tag).
The holiday season is a joyful and exciting time. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Doing a little preparation beforehand can help prevent a larger incident from occurring and make all those fun holiday trips a safe and enjoyable experience.