Parenting Perspective: Mall safety

November 30, 2010

Even crossing the street, he'll put his hands in his coat pocket instead of reaching up and grabbing mine the way he used to.

I guess it's not cool anymore.

But we still have to be safe in crowded stores.

Recently in one store, Nicholas was walking down the aisle with me, but suddenly darted in the other direction to look at some books without telling me.

I was walking and talking to myself for several seconds before I realized he was gone. As a parent we all know the immediate panic. And after finding him, I knew it was time for a little talk.

And many experts say that's the first step in being safe in crowded stores during the holiday shopping season.

One website, safelyeverafter.com, advises parents to talk to your children and make a rule that they must always be able to see you and you see them in a crowded store. Another tip is to make sure the child knows never to leave the store or mall to go looking for you. Emphasize to the youngster that you will never leave until you are reunited.

We started using the "check-first" rule. Nicholas must check first before leaving my side, even if it's to go find mom.

And of course during this time of year, predators are known to look for unsupervised kids. So make sure public facilities don't become convenient babysitters. It may seem tempting to leave a child at a video arcade, a movie theater or a play area - but don't.

And while some experts say my 8-year-old is old enough to go to the men's room by himself, as long as a parent is standing right outside, I'm not comfortable with that just yet and who knows when I will be... hopefully before he goes to college.

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