As full-time travelers, one thing that crosses my mind daily is the safety of my children. While we do let them play on the playgrounds and with other children, we still make sure we can see them at all times. We have also given them rules to follow, to help ensure their safety. However, I am not naive to think they are immune to danger. Unfortunately this world is a crazy, scary place so there are certain measures we have taken for those “just in case” issues.
While teaching your children how to be safe doesn’t guarantee they will never be in danger, it can help ensure their safety or safe return should something happen. It’s not fun to think about, but as parents we have to be realistic and know that danger lurks around every corner. You can never be too careful or talk to your children too much about how to stay safe or recognize a dangerous situation.
Living in a small town for the last 4 years, my children were able to pretty much run around where they wanted, so long as they told us where they were going. However, that all changed when started traveling. We didn’t know our “neighbors” or anyone in the park for that matter. That meant we had to completely re-teach our children about safety.
Teaching Your Children How to be Safe
Make sure they know their information – Teach your children their address and phone numbers as well as your cell phone numbers. This is the first thing police will ask them if they are lost/found.
Take frequent pictures – Whether you’re traveling or not, if your children leave your site, make sure you have a current picture of them. When we go to amusement parks or on hikes, I always take a picture of the kids first thing. That way if we are separated for any reason I have a picture of what they were wearing, so I don’t have to remember in the chaos should something happen.
Set a meeting point – If you’re traveling, make sure you set a designated meeting point should you get separated. Point it out on a map and have them repeat where they will meet you should they get lost.
Know the hotel by name or logo – Traveling can be tricky for little ones. They will not know the address of the hotel where you are staying, but they can learn the name or logo if they are young. Make sure little ones can describe the logo by color and a distinguishing fact – like a blue circle with an H.
Make sure they know who to ask for help – There are several people kids can look to for help when they become separated. Police or Security officers, hotel staff, American Consulate (if abroad), someone working a cash register. If they are at a park, find a mother with kids, a dad with kids or a woman – these are usually the safest.
Warn them that there are impersonators – Sadly, in this crazy world just telling them to find a police officer isn’t enough. People impersonate them – often. So, how can they know who to trust? Teach them to say, “I need an adult before I talk to you.” If they are a real police or security officer, they should offer to find another adult. If not, they might be trouble and should probably run. As I read in a recent article, I would rather them run if they didn’t feel safe and we deal with the consequences later.
Teach them how to use their body as a weapon – Your body can be a weapon, even if you only weigh 25 pounds. If they can’t kick or push their way out, they can yell. Teach them to “speak loudly” if an adult they don’t know approaches them. They can say, “You’re not my parent” or “I don’t know you!” Those phrases will get the attention of well meaning on-lookers and cause the assailant to run. Teach them NOT to yell “I’m lost!” because this can draw the attention of predators, but teach them who to ask for help.
Avoid the personalized bags and backpacks – While they may seem cute at the time, predators use these to draw kids in. They use their name, which makes kids feel a false sense of comfort and then it is usually easy to lure them away. If you must label bags, use those luggage tags that are not as easily read. If you want something personalized with emergency information on it, try a personalized medical bracelet.
Rules we give our children
Always go in pairs – We do not allow our children outside to play alone (with the exception of the 12 year old at times). We tell them that they must stay in pairs at all times and never go off alone. If one of their new “friends” invites them over to their campsite, two of them (at least) must go. No exceptions.
Do not wander off with ANYONE – Our two sweet girls love animals, so it absolutely terrifies me that a predator will approach them and ask for help looking for their lost dog. We have gone over this scenario with them many times, but it still happens. We teach our kids that wandering off with ANYONE other than us or their siblings is absolutely NOT allowed.
Do not go in to others trailers – After a scary incident at one park, we had to verbalize this rule. We had this rule when we lived in a town, that they couldn’t go in to anyone’s house, but apparently that didn’t transfer to trailers. Now they know it does. We don’t know the parents/grandparents, so they can play outside only. And conversely, we don’t allow other children in our trailer.
No public restrooms alone – We have had this rule for a long time, but it is worth mentioning. We do not let our children go in to public restrooms alone. When our boys were younger I would let them go in together, but they had to either talk to each other the entire time or yell out their ABCs or count out loud where I could hear them at all times. It isn’t always easy, but it is the safest solution we have found.
Over the years I have been asked by many parents how we keep so many kids safe. Truth? By the grace of God. This world is not our home, which means there are mean and nasty people everywhere. However, we have been fortunate that the couple of times our children have been “lost” were in relatively safe places, like the Creation Museum.
While I was on the kick of child safety, I started looking in to those free child safety kits I’ve seen advertised online. After doing some research, I found that some of these are not as “free” as they want you to think. While I don’t mind paying for shipping on some things, this is a consumable and ever changing item, so with 5 kids…that would get pricey. I read a review on another one that claimed to be free and was able to be picked up. However, when you entered your information they asked for your zip code to see if a kit was available, which then prompted a screen for you to enter your information and fine print that informed you a salesman would get in contact to deliver said kits. Now who wants a salesman showing up at their door? Certainly not me.
However, I still wanted something I could use as a safety kit for each of our children that we could easily update. That’s when I decided to create my own printable My Child’s Safety Kit. This kit contains 3 printable pages that can be updated as needed simply by printing a new page. I recommend doing them at a specified time each year, such as their birthday or January 1st, so you don’t forget.
In this kit
- Fingerprint page – Simply use an ink pad to take each child’s fingerprints. This doesn’t need to be done yearly, as their fingerprints will not change, unless they have an accident.
- Child’s Information – This page is where you can record all the important information about your child – name, nicknames, DOB, hair/eye color, identifying marks and more. There is also a place to put a picture, maybe their school picture or a picture on their most recent birthday.
- Emergency Information – This page is perfect for traveling. The top portion can be given to children to carry in their backpacks while they go to and from school or staying at a friends house. The bottom two sections are meant to be folded in half and put in a lanyard they can wear around their neck or in a wallet for older kids. If you’re traveling to another country, make sure you print this page in both your native language and the language of the country where you are traveling. This will make it easier for officials should something happen.
Something that isn’t included in this kit is a DNA sample. This is easy enough to obtain by keeping one of your child’s old toothbrushes (left out to air dry), baby teeth or a hairbrush used exclusively by that child for more than 6 months. Keep one or more of these items in a brown envelope that you have the child lick to seal. Then, store it with the documents in a cool, dry place (i.e. a safe).
Because I believe in the safety of all children, the My Child’s Safety Kit is free when you subscribe. To download My Child’s Safety Kit, simply add it to your cart and then checkout. Upon checkout, you will be added to my Weekly Newsletter list.