For many of us, summer is the traditional time to take a family vacation: time to travel, to sightsee, to enjoy some quality time together in a relaxed setting. However, did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 2,185 children are reported missing every day in the United States?
That’s definitely not meant to scare you, but it is a friendly (and highly relevant) reminder that even when you’re on vacation, there are a lot of people in this world that are not. You must always be alert and aware so that you can keep your children safe.
If you’re wondering about ways to keep your kids free from harm and danger during your upcoming family vacation, here are five tips:
Be clothes conscious. Growing up, almost all of us had something with our name on it. Times are not what they used to be, though and so when you’re on the road, encourage them not to wear anything that has their first name or even nickname on it. If they’re younger children, it’s an easy way for an abductor to get their attention (by calling out their name if you’re not around).
Give them a preprogrammed cell phone. If they don’t normally carry one, while you’re on vacation is a good time to start; at least, temporarily. Make sure you include your cell number, the number where you’ll be staying and 9-1-1 so that if there is an emergency, they can always reach you or a police officer.
Do a quick tour of the grounds. Oftentimes natives can pinpoint a tourist and so can a predator. In other words, many children find themselves in trouble simply because they are disoriented by being in a new setting. Whether it’s a friend’s home or a hotel, take out a few moments to familiarize your child with their surroundings including both the facility itself and the address of where you’re staying.
Have meeting times and places. This applies more to teenagers. A lot of times, especially if they’re traveling with a friend, they’ll want to go off on their own to have lunch or shop for souvenirs. If you’re vacationing in a place where English is fluently spoken, this makes things a bit easier. Still, make sure to give them a definite time and place to meet back with you. If it’s an international trip (even if it’s one of the famous Australia tours), limit that as a possibility. In a new country, to most, it’s a very unfamiliar culture and way of doing things; ignorance can be costly. You don’t want your teenager to learn the hard way because a person took advantage of them based on what they didn’t know.
Keep a photo of your child with you and a notepad on them. In case your child does go missing, you’ll need a recent photo to give to the police, so make sure that you have a current one on hand. Also, if your child goes missing, every clue helps, so make sure they have a notepad handy in case they need to write down where they are or to drop a message of urgency to someone. You’d be amazed how many children are abducted by still come into contact with other well-meaning strangers during those first 24-48 hours, but they have no way of communicating their needs.