Along with the wonders and excitement about the upcoming holiday, there comes some increased stress and worry. To alleviate some of the stress caused by travelling with the kids or having family and friends in from out of town- KidSafe suggests you think about implementing a few safety guide lines within your family to avoid some vacation pitfalls. Sit down as a family before your trip or before relatives and friends come into town and have a conversation involving the following:
1. Use the Buddy System: Children are more vulnerable when they are alone. We want to stress to you the importance of children using the Buddy System when out and about. Perhaps you are thinking- ‘Of course we already do that’. But this time change it up a bit by taking a few minutes to have a direct conversation about what using the Buddy System means. Kids often need concrete examples to understand what our logical expectations are. .
2. Communication between the adults should be very clear as to which adult is minding what child and when. We cannot tell you how many times a child went missing at Disney (or some such place)- and the spouse turns to the other spouse and says in a panic “I thought you had your eye on her.”
3. Public Restrooms: Set the guide lines before the trip that children of all ages will use the Public Restrooms only accompanied by an adult, especially at highway rest stops and large venues. This of course applies to young children, but it also can apply to your 13 year old son entering the woman’s room with you and vice versa with a Dad traveling alone with his daughter. Have these conversations before the trip so your children understand the expectations and there will not be resistance once you are at the crowded bathrooms.
4. Getting Lost: At your planning meeting with your family, introduce the concept of Check First. Say to your children- we are going to be visiting with family, going site seeing, etc and I don’t want to lose any of you. (Humor works great when talking about personal safety). With that said, kids- you might see something that catches your eye while we are walking in the city for example- do not stop to look, and do not go in a different direction without Checking First. That means you walk right up to me (or other designated adult) and tell us what you want to do. We will then say yes or no. This will help us avoid getting separated. Also- when we are at the hotel (for example) and you want to go visit your cousins in their room etc- you don’t go anywhere without Checking First with us.
If by chance you do get lost- the safest person to seek help from is another mom with children. (Explain to the kids step by step what they should do.) If you can’t find us- walk up to a mom with kids and say- I am lost can you please help me. Make sure your children know all of the appropriate cell phone numbers. For young children, and children with special needs, place a laminated ID card (make it yourself) with their information on it as well as two cell phone numbers that you can be reached at and stick it in the bottom of their shoe.
5. Relatives/Friends that make you or your child uncomfortable: Often parents have expressed to us that they are heading to visit family for the holidays (or vice versa) and they have a concern about their child’s safety around a certain adult. They can’t quite place their finger on it, and nothing concrete has occurred, but they don’t want their children alone with this adult. So how do you handle this without insulting the relative or creating a riff in the family- but yet be true to your intuition? First and foremost always, and we mean ALWAYS, pay attention to your intuition!! You are the first line of defense in the safety of your child.
At your family meeting set some guidelines:
Have your children Check First with you before they go anywhere with an adult. (Example- an adult relative asked an 11 year old at the family gathering to go for a walk- Boy then said he has to check first with his parent. Boy checked first and parent had to make the decision- (you can say no, you can say I’ll come with, or another option- take a group of kids (instead of one on one). Parents again, follow your intuition. Some parents have expressed that they don’t feel comfortable with their young child sitting on a certain relative’s lap. To avoid this you can set a general guide line that when we sit with our relatives we sit next to them instead of on their laps.
What if your child does not want to hug or kiss a relative or friend? Please do not force your child to. When we force children to hug/kiss or touch an adult that they don’t want to we are sending them a very clear message that the wants and needs of the adult are more important than your child’s. Empower your children that their bodies belong to them, and although they should be polite, they do not have to hug/kiss/touch anyone if they don’t want to. (Our next children’s book- My Body is Special and Belongs To ME! Just went to print and educates children and parents about this concept.)
Another general guideline to implement during vacation and quite frankly, all the time, is when have visitors (whether family or not, no playing in a room with closed doors and no playing in the parent’s bedroom. This always helps kids and mal intentioned adults make better decisions. For more information visit www.kidsafefoundation.org. We hope you all have a Happy Holiday and great New Year! We’re wishing all of your children stay KIDSAFE!!
Working together to Keep KidSafe!
Sally & Cherie