Laurel and I have been talking a lot recently about what to do in scary situations, like if she gets separated from me in various places, and about stranger danger. Now that she is getting older and more independent, she needs to know what to do in emergency situations, and I want her to be prepared so that she doesn’t have to think about her responses, she just does them. So I’ve come up with some ground rules, and I thought I’d share them with you. If you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comment section!
What to do if…..
1. You can’t find me at the mall/store. Being separated at the mall is probably the most likely scenario that families run into. The kid gets distracts and wanders away, or they are looking at something and mom turns the corner and keeps shopping, not realizing that junior has stayed behind. Usually a few loud yells will bring the family together, but not always. What I have told Laurel to do is sit down on the ground and ask the first mom of little kids that walks past her for help. Because a kid wandering or even running through the mall won’t get your attention like a four year old sitting down on the floor by themselves. When she’s older, I’ll tell her to find a store employee, but at the age of four (and a half), she can’t really tell the difference between most grown ups, and since we all know that all adults aren’t created equally, I want her to ask someone safe for help. The safest demographic is moms of other small children, so that is who I want her to look for.
2. You can’t find me in the woods. We do a lot of hiking in the summer, and it is entirely possible that at some point Chev and I will be distracted by Ellie or the dog and Laurel will wander off. Similar to the mall, our plan is for her to sit down on the ground and yell as loud as you can. Kids have a tendency to keep moving in the same direction when they are lost, sometimes walking for miles looking for their parents. They don’t know how to double back or really search an area for their families. The best thing a small child can do is stay in one place and yell until someone finds them.
3. A stranger asks you to help them. Stranger danger time! Laurel knew right away that she shouldn’t go with anybody she doesn’t know, BUT, when I asked her what she would do if someone told her that they lost their puppy and needed help finding it, she automatically said she would help them look for it. I had to really work with her to get her to understand that she couldn’t help the person right away. She must come find me so I can help. That way, we can look for the puppy together. She didn’t understand that there might not be a puppy, so the best I could do was convince her that if I helped, the puppy would be found more easily.
4. Someone you know asks you to come with them. The fact of the matter is that 90% of child abductions are done by people the kids know. Scary as it may seem, strangers aren’t the real danger. Your neighbor, bus driver, grocery store clerk, or mailman is much more likely to steal your child than some random lunatic at the toy store. So it is really important for Laurel to understand that she can’t go anywhere with someone, even she knows them, until she asks for the password. We picked something that is easy enough for her to remember, but weird enough that no one would guess it. We are going to have to really go over this one several more times, but she really likes the idea of s secret word, so there is hope.
5. Someone grabs you and tries to put you in their car (front seat edition). It isn’t likely, but kids should know what to do if this happens. Our plan is for her to lock her arms around the steering wheel, thrash, scream, and generally freak out until you can get away. You can’t abduct anyone if you can’t drive away, and you can’t drive away with a crazy child locked onto your steering wheel. Yes, an adult would probably be able to pry her off after a few minutes, but in the mean time, she would be drawing a heck of a lot of unwanted attention to them.
6. Someone grabs you and tries to put you in their car (trunk edition). Again, drawing attention to herself is key, so we want her to scream, bite, kick, and claw her abductor, and if that doesn’t work, kick out the taillights from the trunk. Granted, she’s pretty little, but I showed her where the lights were in the trunk of our car, and told her to kick the crap out of them if someone put her in their trunk.
7. FIRE! If the fire alarm goes off, the last thing you want your kid to do is hide from it. Turn that sucker on and let them hear what it sounds like before they ever need to know. Every family and every house will have a different plan, but since the girls’ bedroom connects to ours, we want them to come to us if the alarms go off at night. Otherwise, they are to get out of the house any way they can and stand by the car or the back fence. Either way, they will be far enough from danger, but still clearly visible. I am also working on teaching Laurel to crawl under smoke and not to open doors that feel hot. We will work on evacuating from the second floor when they are a bit older, but I think we are set for now. We have also looked at pictures of firefighters in full uniform, so they aren’t scared of the masks and hoods.
8. Mama is hurt! This is a tough one. After spending four years telling Laurel not to mess with the phone, I am now trying to teach her to dial 911 if I get hurt. I’m thinking of getting one of those silver Sharpies to write 911 on each of the phones, just in case. I’m also making sure that Laurel knows how to completely unlock the front door, including the deadbolt. I don’t want the EMTs to have to break it down, after all. She also knows to tell them that Ellie is in the house, in case she is hiding. I don’t want to wake up in the hospital to find that they only picked up one of my kids! The only other things I want to teach her is to lock Foster in the laundry room (so he doesn’t eat the paramedics), and to grab my wallet out of my purse.
Thankfully, most of these plans will never have to be used, but if something DOES happen, I want Laurel to know how to react. In the case of abduction, the worst thing a child can do is nothing. If they freeze, they are lost. On the other hand, if she is separated from me, I WANT her to freeze. Having a plan and talking about these scenarios with your kids makes them a lot less scary when they happen. However much we hate to introduce our children to the idea that there are dangers in the world, it is so much worse to consider what could happen if we don’t prepare them. Keep your kids safe, even when you aren’t around. Make a plan!