The worst moment of my life was the two minutes when I thought my son E had disappeared forever in the depths of FAO Schwarz (the one where the piano scene from “Big” was filmed). This was a couple of years ago, but it still gives me a panicky feeling whenever I think about all the things that could have happened. Thankfully, he went back to the spot he originally left and didn’t get why I was so upset. He was almost three years old at the time.
After that awful moment in time, I decided to teach E our first names, our last name, and anything else he’d need to know if he ever got lost again. I’ve also been teaching him about the dangers of talking to strangers. I’m sure it’s hard for him to differentiate who is a stranger when he sees me talking to new people all the time. I remember being a kid and telling my parents not to talk to strangers, although they knew the people while I did not. I am still working on this concept with him and plan to teach it to my younger son, as well.
Recently, I saw the movie version of “The Lovely Bones.” It involves a young girl who is murdered by a neighbor. It was someone she had seen her parents talking to, so she felt it was safe to go off with him. That’s another important concept to teach when discussing stranger danger. Kids should not go anywhere with another adult, even if that adult is familiar, unless they ask their parents first. I would never authorize my kids to go someplace with an acquaintance. It’s one thing if they were playing at a friend’s house and I didn’t completely know the friend’s parents. It’s another to just let my kids go someplace with another adult when no other kids are around. It’s a scary world that we are living in and we need to do everything we can to educate and protect our children from predators.
I think it’s important to teach our children that if they become separated from us in the store, they should seek help from an employee, not someone just randomly shopping there. If an acquaintance offers them a ride home from school, they should know to refuse the offer, regardless of what tactics the person uses (offering candy, saying they had permission, etc.).
Has your child ever gotten lost? What tactics have you used to teach your kids about stranger danger and what to do when they get lost?