Few scenarios evoke more panic in a parent than losing sight of a child and fearing the child might be missing or in harm's way.
Parents are keenly aware of potential danger and wisely coach children how to safely interact with adults. It is important that a child know the concepts of "stranger danger" and how to respond to a variety of unsafe situations. However, in these scenarios, the physical skills of a child might be overstated and the impact of prevention might not be given enough attention.
There are several key concepts that might be communicated by parents to their children to reduce the likelihood of this type of incident and to maximize the potential for a child's safe return in the event of an abduction or kidnapping or even the return of a child who simply was wandering.
Children should be taught what a safe distance from their caretaker is. Those who are 11 or younger should be instructed never to stray far enough where they cannot see their caretaker's face. The child should be beside or in front of the parent, not following the parent. Otherwise, it can be easy to lose track of distance for both parent and child.
In addition, knowing the parents' first and last names and where the parents work can be key to a quick reunification of parent and child. If the child is too young to remember that information, it can be written for them where it is accessible if needed and where they know to look for it (such as inside of a shoe). Children should be accompanied to rest rooms by the caretaker since separations in a public place create an opportune time for a predator to strike.
Lastly, consider labeling a child's undergarments with a name. A child's identity might be masked quickly with a hat, a haircut or opposite gender clothing, but undergarments are an obscure place to write identifying information for a child where the name might not be easily removed.
Physical awareness and skill are important, but prevention and forethought are essential in reducing risk and ensuring the best outcome to an unimaginable situation.
Lee is the master instructor and owner of the U.S. Taekwondo Center in Monument and is a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo.