Along with the wonders and excitement about the upcoming Holidays, comes some increased stress and worry. To alleviate some of the stress caused by traveling with the kids and/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:
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 well of course we already do. 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 mean.
1. 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.”
2. Public Restrooms: Set the guide lines before the trip that children of all ages will use the Public Restrooms only accompanied by an adult. Please take this precaution 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.
3. Getting Lost: At your planning meeting with your family (which you are having to decrease potential pitfalls of vacation therefore increasing the fun!) 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 trusted 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. Tell your children if they get separated from you they should never ever leave the store no matter what anyone says.
4. Relatives that make you or your child uncomfortable: Often parents have expressed to us that they are heading to visit family for the holidays and they have a concern about their child’s safety around a certain adult. They can’t quite place their finger on it, nothing concrete has occurred, but a certain relative makes them uncomfortable and 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. Always air on the side of protecting your child and if that means you are watching your child perhaps more vigilantly than usual, explain to your child that as nice and fun as this particular relative or any other relative may be you must “Check First” with me before going any where.
In the unfortunate event that you are actually surrounded by someone in your family that you know is definitely unsafe – for older children explain that this particular relative, friend of the family is someone you do not trust and you do not want them to be alone with them at any point during this visit. If the person wants to talk to you or take you somewhere you tell them NO and you need to Check First with your Mom/Dad or whoever is the designated trusted adult. For younger children your eyes need to be on them. The best case scenario of course would to NEVER EVER let your children near or around anyone that you know is unsafe. However, as we know that 90% of the time a child is harmed by someone they know, during holiday celebrations you may come across this unsafe person that others seems to have blinders on as to their harm to children. Trust your intuition and that means you keep a watchful eye on your children or perhaps not attend the event. Always err on the side of protecting your children.
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. 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 children’s book – My Body is Special and Belongs To ME! a 2011 Literary Classics Award Winner – educates children and parents about this concept, and empowers children that they have rights over their bodies. Our book also has an educational section for parents and is available for purchase on our site. Another good general guideline to implement during vacation and quite frankly, all the time is, when having visitors or visiting else where when playing in a room all doors stay open and no playing in the Parent’s bedroom. This always helps kids and adults make better decisions. If you have any questions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org