Like most parents I fear losing my children in a crowded store when we're out shopping. That coupled with my less than stellar patience with crowded environments means that you won't find me in any stores on Black Friday! But with a little advanced planning your shopping trip can go smoothly.
Don’t take younger children shopping when it is close to nap times or during a time of day that they usually have a lot of energy. Those times of day can mean cranky, energetic or less-than-politely behaved children. If your child typically likes to run or hide from you, realize that they are going to do that in a crowded store as well and look around at areas that you think they’re like to hide in.
Do you need to shop at a busy time of day? Do you need to take your children to the early morning Black Friday price-slashing sale? Can you shop at a different time?
Talk to your child beforehand. Explain to them that the store may be crowded, there may be a lot of fun things to look at, but that they must stay with you so that they don’t get lost. Many young children don’t want to lose their parent in the store and will understand.
If your child is young enough to use a stroller, use it. Make sure the safety strap is securely buckled. For preschoolers and younger elementary aged children hold hands. For older children designate a meeting place in each store or mall where everyone is to meet if you get separated.
Place a card with your name and cell phone number in your child’s pocket. If you are separated store employees or security guards will be able to contact you. There is also a mom-owned business, www.safetytat.com, that makes standard & write on temporary tattoos that can have your contact information on them.
If you do lose your child:
* Start looking immediately. Call your child’s name loudly. Hopefully they will hear you and come running, hopefully it will also alert the store staff that your child is missing.
* Make contact with the store or mall staff. Many locations have a ‘code Adam’ system that has staff monitoring all exits so no one can leave with your child. If more than a few minutes go by contact your local police department.
For many of us hiring a sitter so that we can shop is not always an option. None of us want to think that we could lose our child in a crowded store. But planning ahead and knowing what to do can help prevent a lost child or make finding your child a lot easier.