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Prevent lost children while holiday shopping

Posted on Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 10:25 am

In a sea of legs, it can be easy for a child to follow the wrong person and become lost.

The only thing scarier during the holidays than the tally on a credit card bill come January is the idea of a child getting lost or abducted while out shopping. Safety tips can keep children by your side or help caregivers find kids fast should they wander off.

These are a busy few months at the mall, with many people packed into stores in search of the perfect gifts. Confusion and the sheer volume of shoppers can increase the chance that a child will get lost.

A lost child can create panic parents and caregivers. However, keeping a level head is more beneficial than running off to find the child. Although preventing a child from wandering off is the best method of protection, being prepared for what to do should the child go missing is equally important.

* Talk about what to do. Sit children who are old enough down to help them understand and set up a plan of action if they become separated from you. In familiar stores, you can establish a meeting spot to go to, such as near the cash register. Instruct children to seek a security guard or store employee and ask for help.

* Dress boldly. Part of the problem when holiday shopping is being swarmed by different people all dressed similarly. Designate brightly colored clothes that both you and your children can wear to be more visible. Most small children only have the vantage point of seeing from the waist down. Consider wearing flashy shoes or a bandana tied to belt loops to help you stand out. Children can wear a bright shirt or hat so you can see them at all times.

* Dress-up strollers, too. Many strollers are identical in appearance. Set yours apart by tying a ribbon or balloon to it. This way you will be able to notice if someone is wandering off with your stroller — and your child!

* Carry a recent photo. Take a picture of your children with your mobile phone before leaving the house so that you will know exactly what he or she was wearing and will have the most recent photo available for identification. In addition to taking a head shot, take a photo of the child’s shoes, too. In events of child abduction, kidnappers may have a change of clothes ready for children, but rarely will they be able to change kids’ shoes because of sizing issues. Those shoes can prove an invaluable method of identification.

* Give children identification. You can create a personal ID card with basic information to help reunite you with your child. This may include only the child’s first name and an “I’m Lost” message with a phone number to “Call Mom.” Because even an ID card can go missing, some inventive parents are using methods like temporary tattoo IDs like those from SafetyTat(R).

* Hold hands and stay connected. Keep your children within reach and do not let them stay in one aisle while you shop in another. Holding hands keeps children within reach. Although many parents frown on the use of a child leash, if it means the difference between a child running off or staying put, it might be a good idea.

* Reinforce positive behavior. Should a child wander off and follow safety tips, reward that behavior with praise when you are reunited. Wait until another time to talk about why he or she got lost and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Children tend to wander off out of curiosity or by following the wrong person. During the busy holiday season this can happen more frequently. By heeding tips, children can be kept safe whenever the family is in a crowd.