Are you being paranoid or prepared?

While you can control who comes in and out of your home, public spaces are very different. There are so many corners and small spaces that your child slip past and through and out of your site. Public places like shopping malls, restaurants, grocery stores, carnivals, festivals, markets and childrens venues can often be overwhelming and full of unfamiliar people. It’s not ideal or fun to have to literally push through people to move forward with a child in a busy area.

You also can’t always leave your child at home if you need to do a trip to the grocery store or there will be times where there is just no childcare or a sitter available.

A very busy crowd like a market, concert or mall can be very easy for a child to separate from even the most beady eyed parent, resulting in a lost child situation.

It’s only natural to worry about your children who are vulnerable in public areas. What you can do is have a plan for if they are separated from you or out in public, and educate your child on what they can do in such a situation.

Put together a strategy if your child gets lost. Here are some tips:

  • Before going to a place where you know is going to be crowded, write your phone number on your child’s wrist with pen or with a laundry marker in their clothing. Explain that if they get lost, they must show this number to a security person, shop manager or police officer. From 4 years old they can remember a phone number, but could forget if they start to panic.
  • Discourage your child from talking to people that they don’t know if you are not with them.
  • Explain that they should always tell you if a stranger ever talks to or approaches them.
  • It’s a good idea to approach other families if they are separated or need help.
  • Explain they must not walk away with someone they don’t know.
  • Teach your child their full name(s), your names, your address and phone numbers. Explain to them that they should never tell strangers their or your name, or where you live.
  • Teach your children the difference between a good secret and a bad secret. A good secret is fun to keep, such as a birthday surprise. A bad secret makes you feel uncomfortable, frightened and feels bad to keep.
  • Encourage your child to tell you about things that make them feel scared or sad.
  • If a stranger or a person they don’t feel comfortable with approaches, teach your child to scream “No!”, “Help!” or “Danger!”, run and tell a trusted adult what happened. Screaming and running are better to teach than hiding quietly.
  • You can instill the paired up buddy system as a habit. Your child shouldn’t walk or play alone outside or in public areas.

While you are with your child:

  • Always keep your child within your sight or another trusted adult.
  • Decide on a meeting point in each place you visit in case you both get separated.
  • Don’t be concerned if you are judged for using reins or a wrist link for your child and you, especially if they often run off suddenly. It’s better that they are kept safe than to run into the road or get themselves lost and panic.
  • Always go with your child into public bathrooms.
  • If you are travelling in a train, but or taxi, make sure you are have seats close together.

More crimes are against teenagers than any other age group. These are a few tips you can use to keep your pre-teen/teenager safe:

  • Encourage your child to tell you or a teacher if they are being bullied or feel that they could be in danger.
  • Teach your child to stay alert at all times, and keep their music on phones/MP3 players turned off, so that they are aware and can hear what’s happening around them. They should also keep valuables out of sight and it’s ok to fight back.
  • They must keep a 3 arm-length distance from any strangers and cars, even if they are being friendly. If necessary, they must run in the opposite direction to the car if they feel uncomfortable.
  • If someone tries to take something from your child, explain that he/she must hand it over straight away as nothing is worth their safety.
  • If your child suspects they’re being followed, they should cross the road and head to a busy place with lots of people around them.
  • You can arm your child with a shrill alarm or whistle on a key chain or around their neck.
  • Educate them to stay on busy, well-lit roads, and avoid alleyways short cuts.

Study’s have shown that strangers are rarely behind the crimes committed against children. There are still children going missing everyday and these tips can help protect your child, especially when you’re not there.

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