As your family grows, so does the responsibility of a parent to protect their family and their children. No child has the wisdom to look out for themselves or the judgment to protect themselves.
From birth, you should register each of your children with your local police “child find” program – they take their picture, fingerprints and personal data and store it, making it easier to track down in the case of emergency. With this registration, important information like blood type and medical history will be included which can be invaluable in an emergency.
As your children grow older, have them memorize their first and last names, their phone number and their street address, in case they get lost. Teach them the basics of common sense: look both ways before crossing the street, don’t talk to strangers, never take candy from a stranger – these phrases are all rooted in a common sense need. Also, teach them to trust police officers and fire ad rescue personnel – in an emergency, your children will need to know who they can trust.
In the home, have an emergency plan and hold a family meeting annually to review it so that everybody knows what to do. Have a list handy in the kitchen by the phone, as this is a room where people spend the majority of the day in or near, and keep track of emergency phone numbers for police, fire, poison control, relatives to contact, etc. In your plan, include escape routes in case of fire or burglary, and a place to stay, like a nearby hotel, and a central phone number to call to check in, like a relative, a neighbor, or the police. A plan like this needs to be reviewed annually, so make every New Year’s Day, for example, your Family Plan day – if your children are young, they may not appreciate it but you will be building a good habit, if they are older, you are giving them the tools to think properly under pressure and setting them up for success as an adult.
A family password is also a good idea – as your children go to school, you may need to send a friend to pick them up when you are unable to – train your children to demand a password before allowing themselves to be picked up by anyone other than Mommy or Daddy. Unless the password is given, they should yell, make a scene, and seek out a teacher or policeman. This password can be something as simple as a favorite sports team or movie title, but it will comfort your child knowing that they are safe, and will comfort you knowing that they won’t allow themselves to walk away without causing a fuss.
Holidays can still bring the same sense to bear – in busier places, like summer fairs or shopping malls during the Christmas holiday season, be extra vigilant, and as you arrive, plan on a place where everyone should meet if someone gets lost. Keep your children in sight, and if they are young enough, bring or borrow a stroller so that they can be controlled and make the day much easier.