Few experiences rival the terror a parent feels when a child is missing. Whether you’re at a crowded amusement park or fair, in a store or simply playing at the local park, losing sight of your little one is nothing short of panic-inducing. And getting lost isn’t the only danger that kids face when you head out for a fun outing. Dehydration, sunburn and injuries are always a possibility — enough so that as a parent, you may be tempted to simply stay home where you can keep your kids safe, sound and within your view at all times.
But the fact is, with a few simple safety tips, a family trip to a favorite amusement park or an afternoon of shopping can be a fun and memorable trip. Before you take the kids out on the next family outing, take some of these precautions to ensure that everyone makes it home in-tact.
Many parents hesitate to talk to their children about what to do if they are lost for fear of unnecessarily alarming the little ones. However, teaching your children what to do if you get separated can keep a scary situation from escalating into something worse. Direct your child to find a responsible adult to help; for example, when visiting an amusement park, point out park employees and show your children how to identify people who can help them. Tell your children what to say if they cannot find you. Most amusement park employees are trained in handling lost or separated children and can ensure your child’s safety. If turning to an employee isn’t an option, teach your kids to find another mom and ask for help. Another parent will understand the urgency of the situation and will be able to seek appropriate help.
If your child is lost and finds help with another adult, you’ll be reunited much faster if you can be easily contacted. Teaching your child to memorize your phone number can help, but a scared child might not remember the correct numbers. Better yet, place your contact information somewhere on the child — in a backpack or pocket, for example. Labels are even better: Purchase kids name labels printed with your child’s name and your cellphone number, and place them inside a shirt collar or sleeve.
Many families start off on the right track by establishing a meeting spot where everyone can reconnect if they get separated, but many times the instructions are too vague. Instead of saying “If we get separated, I’ll meet you at the carousel,” which can lead to family members standing on opposite sides of the ride and missing each other, be specific: “Meet me by the light post next to the entrance to the carousel.” For little ones, take them to the exact spot where you’re to meet and tell them exactly what they are supposed to do.
Many times, children are injured because they fail to follow basic instructions and warnings — or because their parents try to skirt the rules. For example, many amusement rides have height restrictions. Do not try to “beat the system” and resort to tricks to make your child appear tall enough for the ride, as you could be endangering them. Remind your kids to listen to ride operator instructions, and don’t allow your children to engage in behaviors or activities contrary to posted rules.
Small children are far more prone to heat injuries, as their bodies have not yet developed all of the necessary functions for regulating core temperatures. Before heading outside, slather on the sunscreen (and reapply as necessary) and make sure that you have plenty of water available. Kids who are playing hard lose fluids at a faster rate than adults and may not be able to tell you that they are feeling dehydrated. Sure, locating bathrooms for regular breaks can be a pain, but restricting drinks can cause bigger problems than a few lost moments in the potty — or the cost of a concession stand drink.
Nothing can ruin a fun family outing faster than illness, injury or a lost child, but there is no need for such problems to occur. Taking a few simple precautions before you start the fun can keep everyone safe, happy and healthy.
About the Author: Blogger Jodi Davis is a former pediatric nurse and parenting expert — as the mother of five, she knows all about managing families on the go.