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Summer is here! The nice weather and break from school often bring family vacations, festivals and amusement parks – which means crowds. It is important to talk to your children when they are young and often about crowd safety and what to do if the family were to be separated.
Molly Antoniolli, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares tips on what parents can do to prepare leading up to and on the day of crowded activities:
Day of Activity:
Teach kids to memorize your cell phone number. Children over the age of four can typically learn a song, which means they are able to memorize a phone number. Ask them randomly to repeat the number back to you as practice. This helps when a safety officer asks them if they know mom or dad’s number.
Create your own identification for your children. Invest in a storage belt that goes under clothing (like something runners typically use), an ID bracelet or even a liquid Band-Aid where you can write their name and your number. If you have more room, try to include their allergies or the business card of the hotel of where you are staying.
Take a picture of them before you head out. This provides documents for their clothing, hairstyle and the most recent photo in case you need it.
Establish a plan if you’re separated. Whether that is asking your children to stay put as soon as they realize they’re alone or picking a place to meet as soon as you arrive. If you decide to pick a place to meet, ask your children to pick the location so it is easier for them to remember and have them repeat it aloud. Never meet near an entrance/exit or in the parking lot as that leaves your children open and vulnerable.
Practice picking an approachable adult. If your children were to be separated from you, you want to teach them to approach a mom with kids in tow or an employee of said establishment. Your children can then ask that adult to either wait with them while they wait for you, or to walk them to your designated meeting place. This adult may also have a cell phone and can call the number they have memorized. Practice this often as you go to the grocery store, to the mall, etc. Ask your child “Who works here? Who is a mommy?” so they are comfortable picking out these adults.
Two traveling options. Give your children two options when out and about – either hand holding or go in the stroller/cart.Practicing this on a day-to-day basis helps them understand boundaries, rules and safety. It will be less of a fight when you’re at a new, crowded area as the rules have been established and practiced.
Dr. Antoniolli recommends when traveling to put your kids in bright-colored clothing so it’s easy to pick them out. If it’s nighttime, consider purchasing glow-in-the-dark bracelets or necklaces. Dr. Antoniolli also recommends to never put your children’s names on their shirts as kids are more likely to listen to someone who knows their name.