Tips to Keep Kids Safe While Shopping
As parents, we always hope for the best but expect the worst. Armed with diaper bags, handbags and one more catch-all bag for good measure, we are prepared for literally everything! This isn’t to say we’re focused on the bad, letting potential dangers ruin our fun, but instead, prepared for it. And, part of being BSG protected is doing some out-of-the-bag thinking. Check out our top tips for moms and dads to keep your children safe while doing your holiday shopping.
Rule of Shopping #1: Assume Separation is Inevitable
When we assume the worst, we tend to plan for it. We fear it less. This plan, which should include an agreed-upon meeting place, can be practiced at the same time as your fire escape plan at home. It’s extremely important that your children know that you will not leave the store or the mall without them and that they are not to leave without you. Teaching them to recognize store clerks and security officers as “safe strangers” can help remove some of the fear of being lost.
Rule of Shopping #2: Take Photos & Wear Distinctive Clothing
Remember to snap a photo before leaving the house so you are able to refer back to it for details if needed. Details that might be hard to recall during the frenzy of being separated from your children. Consider dressing them in bright or distinct clothing so they are easier to spot. While some frown upon it, a clothing item that can be useful during the busy holiday shopping season when shopping with a small child is a child harness, which ensures your wandering and active child stays with you. Not only do they get distracted, but we do as well.
Rule of Shopping #3: Practice Dialing Your Phone Number
There are a couple of ways to go about this one. We really like the idea of teaching your children your name and cell phone number but you can also write it on them, be it their hand, wrist or leg, and use a little liquid band-aid or clear nail polish to keep it from rubbing off. Continue practicing memorization of your name and number though for those rushed days where the phone number hack is forgotten! Make it into a song and practice it on the way to school every day so that it eventually becomes committed to memory. Don’t forget to have them practice calling, too, not just reciting. This creates familiarity and is likely to be put into practice with less hesitation when needed.
Rule of Shopping #4: Always Accompany Children to the Restroom
Public restrooms have become somewhat unsafe places, statistically speaking. Accompany smaller children into public restrooms and stand outside the door for older (9 and up) kids. Communicate with your older child as they enter and let them know you’ll be checking in if he or she takes too long. Not only will your child want to avoid the embarrassment of Mom or Dad checking in on them, but any predators will be warned that you’re on the lookout and will want to avoid getting caught.
Rule of Shopping #5: Don’t Use Kid-Friendly Areas as Babysitters
Malls often have play areas, arcades and video games kids can play. As tempting as it may be to do some kid-free shopping, don’t let your kids go unsupervised. Instead, keep your child occupied because an occupied child is less likely to get bored and wander off; use books, toys and other sound-off devices (the sound may keep them from being alert to their surroundings). Further, ensure your children know that they cannot ever be out of your sight, which also means you cannot be out of theirs. If they want to go anywhere, they must always check with you first (and we still recommend everyone staying together or at least in pairs).
Bonus Rule of Shopping: Parking Lots
A bonus shopping safety warning is to be just as careful in parking lots as you do inside your favorite stores. Not only watching out for cars and children toppling over in shopping carts but also predators. Avoid anyone approaching people in the parking lot and head directly for your vehicle. Keep your keys in your hands so that you’re not fumbling for them and, if you feel unsafe for any reason, don’t go it alone. Ask a security guard to accompany you and your family to your car, especially at night.
Could your local shops and malls benefit from enhanced security? Write them! Have ideas? Talk to them! Why not let your voice be heard? Maybe the customer isn’t always right but a professional store manager will hear out any reasonable suggestions. BSG we’re here to help.