With the exception of the quietest parks,
most excursions parents take with kids are full of distractions. Stores
themselves are meant to distract-thousands of products are all trying to
be louder, brighter and bigger in order to catch your attention. In
addition, many stores are crowded with obstacles that can easily mean a
lost toddler in seconds. Every parent knows that the kids themselves are
How do you teach a very young child to fend for themselves
against abductors who would just love to have them?
The lessons for child empowerment and safety can't begin
soon enough. But the reality is that it's the parents (or caregivers)
who are solely responsible for the safety and well-being of the children
in their care. Part of that is making it easier on you by keeping the
children close by and visible as much as possible.
Even though your toddler may be mobile the rest of the time, he or she
should be carted or in a stroller during any distracting errand. This
will not be a popular decision with most toddlers. After all, they've
just figured this walking and running stuff out! But in the long run,
they will get used to going into a cart or stroller every time they
approach a store and your shopping experience will be more pleasant as
well. Not only will you have them right in front of you at all times,
but you won't have to worry about them spilling merchandise off of
shelves, tripping other shoppers up underfoot, and forgetting what you
came for in the melee.
This technique becomes even more important as your family
grows. If it's hard to keep track of one child, it's even harder to
watch one who's on the run while another is screaming for a bottle or
new diaper. Make it easy on yourself, spring for the double (or even
triple) stroller, or put both kids into the cart, even if it means
getting less each trip. Or, if your toddler simply won't cooperate, do
your shopping on your lunch hour or while your kids are at home with
Even when the setting is a playground, chaos can still
reign. And keeping track of the kids can be almost impossible once
there's more than one!
Different playgrounds are designed differently, with
differing amounts of visibility. If you're not comfortable with the
nooks and crannies in one playground, start using another. If the
playground is very large, encourage your kids to stay near the same
area. Do the swings first, then perhaps the giant slide. Keep them
within a few yards of each other. Should your attention need to be
totally diverted from one of your children, for instance in the case of
a skinned knee, call the other one over to "help."
The world is such these days that we parents can't even
relax on a shady bench and read a novel while the kids play! They can be
gone simply too fast. Activities that allow you to keep your eyes on
your children, like returning those cell phone calls, or getting
pictures of the kids at play are more in tune with the requirements of
today's watchful parents.
If you can, go out in public situations with another
mother, but never assume that you are watching each other's children.
Instead, think of yourself as an extra set of eyes for her kids, and
vice-versa, though your first assumption should always be that you are
the only one watching your children.
This may also go for your spouse. Children have been lost
more than once because one spouse thought that the other was watching,
while the other thought the first was watching. When with your spouse,
work as an ever-vigilant team-both watching equally well. And if you
have to duck out for a moment, always communicate very clearly to your
partner that you are leaving the children in his or her care for a
Public restrooms can be another nightmare for parents-particularly if
your child is a member of the opposite sex. No father relishes being
alone with his daughter and having to figure out how he is supposed to
take his four-year-old princess past a bunch of guys using urinals. Do
you send her into the ladies' room by herself? Unfortunately, that's no
longer an option, either. Do you send her in with a nice lady who is
still a stranger?
As parents have gotten to be more cautious about public
bathroom use, child predators have made adjustments. 10-year-old Matthew
Cecchi, for instance, was murdered in a public restroom while his aunt
stood right outside. A seven-year-old girl on a school trip in Chico,
California, narrowly escaped an assault when a male attacker climbed
under the stall door in the girls' room at a local park. So, it stands
to reason that, even if a child's eyes have to be covered on the way to
a locked, closed stall, that children must be accompanied right to the
stall itself. Things like hand washing can be done elsewhere, for
modesty's sake, but public bathrooms are no place for unaccompanied
Fairs, amusement parks and festivals are also potential
organizational nightmares for parents trying to keep tabs on their kids.
Strollers are great in these situations, as are "hand
holders", Velcro bracelets with bungee cords in between that attach
between parent and child. If your toddler is especially active and
strapping them into a stroller will mean ruining the day, some parents
don't mind using harnesses, even though they can expect dirty looks from
other adults who will make comments about "leashes." If you
are all more comfortable with your toddler using his or her own leg
power, while still being safely under your control, then ignore them and
do what you think is right. Today's harnesses even come in the form of
cute fanny packs, so they look less Fido-esque.
Even in the familiarity of your own car, leaving the kids
behind while you "run into the store" for a second is no
longer an option, even if you can leave the air conditioner on, the
alarm armed and the doors locked via a handy remote. Cars are super easy
to break into, people ignore alarms, and it can take just seconds for
someone to smash a window and grab your child. Yes, it's a pain hauling
one ore more children in and out of car seats on a series of short
errands, but nothing compares to the pain of not knowing where your
Regrettably, your own backyard may not even be safe to leave your
children in unattended. Depending upon the setup of your property, you
may have to resign yourself to a comfortable chair and some crocheting
while your children play in your yard, or the common area at the
apartment complex, if it's a small area. If it's larger, take along the
cordless phone and catch up with a girlfriend, while keeping your eyes
on the kids.
It would seem easy to impart paranoia and fear into your
kids with the eagle-eye treatment, but it doesn't necessarily have to
feel that way to them. Watchful mothers have been around for
centuries-whether hanging partway out of tenement windows while their
children played stickball, or strolling behind as their children go from
swing to sandbox. Parents need to be diligent-not jumpy. By seeing such
watchfulness as a part of the routine, parents and caregivers are more
relaxed, and the children pick up on this.
Still, it is a lot of work! Gone are the days where you
could send off the three-year-old with her seven-year-old brother to the
park two blocks away and go about your chores without a worry.
Regardless of the type of neighborhood parents think they're living in,
a quick review of a Megan's Law CD at your local police station will
reveal right away that convicted sex offenders now make their homes in
every part of the country. It's not fair to our kids, however, not to
take them out. They need to see the world as well- it's how they learn
and grow. Even if the parents' part of the deal is more effort than
It is, however, worth it.
Reprinted from www.escapeschool.com
with permission from Bob Stuber. Copyright (c)1997- 2002, All Ears
Studios for Bob Stuber.