Thursday, June 14, 2007

I want to make note of this website and organization that is really trying to help prevent and recover missing kids. On their blog, they simply state:

"Hopefully your child is safe and sound with you at home, and you are visiting this page just to be aware of who is missing, stay alert, and possibly help others. However, in the unfortunate event that your child is indeed missing, and you are looking to maximize the exposure you need to find your missing son or daughter, we invite you to visit, a website that aims to help you in that effort by giving you 24/7 television exposure via the Internet."

We are proud partners and support all proactive efforts to keep kids safe!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Free online story in support of Missing Child Month

Its been a very busy month responding to media requests for information on lost child prevention. While there is far from enough information out there on prevention, we are happy to see that people are starting to realize that there are some really simple things that can be done to at least reduce the frequency and duration of every day lost child situations.

One of those things is actually fun for both adults and kids is the free online story we created called, "When Whizzly Wanders". Adapted form the soft cover book produced by Wander Wear, the online version is animated to keep kids engaged and learning with pleasure.

Please check it out and let other families know about it. Its totally free and doesn't even require you to register to watch. Its our gift to you to recognize Missing Child Month and to help keep all kids safe in public places.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Grown ups need to brighten up too!

I recently got a suggestion from a thoughtful father that grown ups should also wear bright colors in crowded places to help their own kids see them. He felt that in a crowd, little kids will see adults only from the waist down, it would be helpful to have the caregiver wear bright colored pants or something on their legs like a bandanna or ribbon that a child could see if the child was lost.

I do think this is a good idea and I would encourage it as long as parents also heed teh other Away From Home Tips. An adult wearing bright color clothes could help a small child keep an eye on their caregiver, however, a lost child often panics and won't remember to even look or remember what the caregiver is wearing. In addition, in a crowded place, where there are lots of legs to look at, its really important that in addition to visual clues like the clothes, kids are given a cell phone number to proactively contact the "lost" parent.

The reason I didn't include this good idea in the Away from Home Tips is that we try to suggest things that are practical and reasonable for every family to do. Wearing bright colored pants isn't hard but may not be practical in many circumstances for many people. So, please go for it if you can. But please be sure to at least do the following: give kids safe ID, all caregivers should carry a recent photo of the child, and dress the child in bright green or yellow.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Missing the Point

The words "lost" and "missing" are quite ambiguous when they pertain to children. "Lost" can mean being in an unknown place, a child who has died, or simply one that is confused. "Missing" can mean also being in an unknown place but it implies that there is a malicious reason why a child is gone, versus being innocently lost.

Children go"missing" for numerous reasons - they run away, they are abducted, or they get hurt (accidentally or otherwise) and can't get back to where they are expected to be due to the injury. Perhaps they have a broken leg or are in too much pain to move from where they are to where they should be.

Children get "lost" for a number of reasons as well. They can wander off led by their curiosity only realizing afterwards that they can't find their caregiver. Some kids think running away or hiding in a public place is funny and they will giggle while under a rack watching mom scream hysterically trying to find them. These situations are innocent and are often caused because we don't usually teach our kids that getting lost is a bad behavior - as much as crossing the street without looking or not washing after using the bathroom.

Older kids can find themselves lost in other ways. The first week of school every year generates dozens of stories of kids getting on or off the wrong school bus. It is quite common and the fact is that if the child gets off the bus in the wrong neighborhood, it is quite scary to both child and the parent. Just imagine standing there expecting your child to come off the bus and he/she doesn't. Its almost too scary to even think about. With all the newness of school and most likely a new bus route, it is a common situation, however. Even if the child notifies the bus driver before disembarking that they are not in the right place, the bus drivers often have no way of notifying a parent or other person until they complete their route.

Its also common that a child will be waiting to be picked up after an an activity like a music lesson or other individual class. There are all kinds of reasons why the child may be waiting longer than a few moments expecting the parent - traffic, car problems, or even because mom's watch stopped and she hasn't realized that it is actually an hour later. Meanwhile, the patient child is alone and in risk of all kinds of harm.

So with such ambiguity in the words themselves, it is no wonder parents don't always respond to the concept of lost child prevention. Not only might they be in denial that it could happen to them, but they rarely think about the numerous ways that their precious child might be separated from them accidentally and how easily they can put cell phone information on their children.

So do a good deed. explain this to another parent and tell them to be best prepared by reading our "Away from Home Safety Tips". Easier than putting a car seat belt on, keep your kids safe anytime they are away from home and might need to find you!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Prepared or paranoid parenting?

When you become a parent, you automatically become critical of other parents. Some you deem too lenient or lazy. Others you say are overprotective or paranoid. Of course, like Goldilocks, your parenting is "just right". But is it? No doubt, you've often questioned if you are being caring enough or too neurotic. Where is the real line? Is there one?

Definitely not. Apparently this is what makes a horse race...but when it comes to children's safety, is it better to be overly careful than neglectful? Perhaps yes. It is a good idea to know the potential dangers of SIDs, shaken baby syndrome, and other such medical circumstances and how to minimize them. We childproof our houses so our children are safe around stairs, ovens, and fireplaces. As they grow, we protect them from the Internet and strangers. No doubt, having access to information these days helps us be sometimes overly aware.

However, one of the areas that is not so well publicized is that of getting lost. Why? Because people don't want to admit it happens. Its embarrassing. It makes us feel irresponsible and out of the ordinary. You never want to admit losing your child to your spouse or heaven forbid your own mother! So we assume it doesn't happen and it can't and won't happen to us.

WRONG. Over 2000 kids get lost every day. 90% of families will experience it at least once. Chances are, if you haven't already, you will lose a child in a public place - in fact, its even more likely than getting a cold this year.

So ironically, its the responsible parent who is prepared and knows what to do to avoid a child getting lost - and then knows what to do when it does happen. Do you ever get in your car without putting on a seat belt? Do you expect to get into an accident? Certainly not...however, in the slight case that you will get into an accident, you prepare yourself and your kids and take that extra a second to put on the belt so you are prepared.

You can be as quickly prepared for when you go out in public places. Its not being paranoid, its being smart. Put safe ID on your kids and carry a recent through the Center's tips to find other easy ways to be a good parent.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

From Lost to Lunatic

Speaking of stupid pet tricks (see previous post)...ever see a screaming, hysterical parent who has just found their lost child? The parent yells things like, "Don't you ever do that again", "Why can't you remember to stay near me?"!

While other parents look on in horror thinking to themselves, "What a shameful sight. I would NEVER do that!", we all know this scenario is all too common. Its the release of our anxiety from losing the child. Women and men do this and often they do it knowing it was probably their own fault for losing the child in the first place. Maybe a little displacement of guilt - ironic as they stand there being judged by their screaming which only let's their otherwise unsuspicious surrounding audience know that they had lost their child.

So while we stand and scorn, not only is the screaming parent making a fool of his/herself, but the poor child is being humiliated in public. As if this might not in itself cause major psychological trauma, the next time that child is accidentally lost (yes, most kids get lost more than once), the child will probably consider the consequences of being found - that is, being publicly humiliated again. Isn't it better to stay lost than to be found and have mom or dad scream at you again? I'd choose to stay lost.

Next time if this happens to you and you are about to unleash a whirlwind of verbal relief on your child, try to hold back. Remember screaming and displacing blame and anxiety isn't the answer - in fact, it could be the cause of a further negative consequence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Stupid Parent Tricks

If you think about it, there are so many things parents do that are counter intuitive and can actually harm their children. For example, telling a young child to remember a meeting spot in a big, foreign place. A lot of these practices are outdated and simply don’t make sense given that we now know better and have better tools to use. Another parenting myth is telling your kid never to talk with strangers. I wonder how many more kids will have to die hiding because rescue workers pass them by since the child is afraid to ask for help.

I invite you to read the article I published on “Don’t talk to strangers and other parenting myths” - I think it will open your eyes wide to things we learned to do as parents and never considered how silly they seem in this day and age. As always, feedback is welcomed!