Keeping Your Child Safe In A Public Place


Teaching “stranger danger” is how you prepare your child, but how ready are you to handle this nightmare scenario?
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1. The Photo That Could Save Their Life

Get into the habit of taking a photo of your child’s outfit every day after they get dressed, and be sure that picture includes the shoes. An abductor can quickly change a child’s shirt, and even pants, in a matter of seconds- but the likely hood of them being able to match the child’s shoe size is unlikely, therefore shoes are sometimes the only clothing item they will leave unchanged.

2. Dress Them Bright, Keep Them In Sight

Try to keep them to bright colors if you are going to any public place that day (supermarkets, parks, malls, etc.) if you have multiple children then have them wear similar if not the same shirts when they’re out. It’s easier for your brain to look for 3 neon orange shirts in the crowd at the playground rather than one blue, one orange, and one pink.
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3. If They Can’t Talk, Give Them a Tattoo

Just kidding! Well… kinda. If you’re going to an unfamiliar and busy place, like a fireworks show or an amusement park, I recommend writing your phone number and name on your child somewhere with skin-safe washable markers. Never write your child’s name- you want to give a stranger access to get in touch with you, not more access to your child’s trust.
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4. Don’t Use Their Name, Use Their Shoes

If your child goes missing, start loudly yelling their description NOT name. An example: “I’M LOOKING FOR MY CHILD WHO IS MISSING HE IS SIX YEARS OLD BROWN HAIR CAUCASIAN WEARING A RED SHIRT WITH BLACK NIKES!” Our instincts are to begin quietly looking for our children by calling their names. Instead, our immediate reaction should be to be as loud as possible. The more commotion you cause the better because you want as many eyes looking for your child’s description as possible. In the best case scenario, you have everyone in the area looking for the child and one of them will quickly spot them. In the worst-case scenario, an abductor will let your child go and be scared off by all eyes looking for him.
Code Adam

5. Look For The “Code Adam” Sticker

Code Adam began in 1994, first at Walmart stores. It was named after Adam Walsh who was at a Sears store when he was abducted and murdered. Staff at the store did not call the authorities when the parents first informed them their child was missing in their store.

Out of this devastation, Code Adam was born. When a store participates in Code Adam, then all staff have been trained for the following procedure: A staff member will be placed at every exit ensuring nobody leave with the child, and the child’s physical description, as well as the shoes they are wearing, will be a called over the store's speaker system. If the child has not been found within 10 minutes, authorities are called.

Today, many major stores and amusement parks are apart of this program including Old Navy, CVS, Disney, and Rite Aid. Most stores that participate will have a small window decal somewhere upon entry (usually on a window or door). Getting into the habit of looking for this sticker, or even making it into a game with your child, could be life-saving.

Safety Starts at Home

It’s important to remember that no matter how prepared you are, talking to your children is always the first step in protecting them. Going beyond the “stranger danger” conversation can be difficult- we aren’t taught as parents how to teach our children about the evils in the world. But keep in mind that it’s better for them to find out from you than first hand. Teach them that when a stranger tries to separate them from the group or be a little too kind, that being polite is NOT required. We too often praise our children for the fake smiles they give strangers but recognize that these actions could be enforcing a dangerous behavior in the wrong circumstances.

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Freelance Writer - Chronic Illness & Mental Health Advocate

Massachusetts State

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