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Right now the biggest thing for me is situational awareness. My son is 8 and doesn’t pay attention to literally anything, ever. So when we’re walking or driving somewhere, we play a game memorizing cross streets. He’s also recently decided that he likes doing route prep. I print out a street map from Google or MapQuest and tell him to draw the route to somewhere we go regularly (his school, the grocery store, his favorite restaurants, etc). If the route he draws is different from how I normally go, we take it anyway. Then, on the way back, we’ll take my preferred route so he can see the difference. If we’re taking a route he picked, I’ll make him look at the nearest street sign and tell me what the next turn/step is from where we are right now.
Senior Editor, RECOIL
I have four boys, including a 14-year-old son who is a freshman in high school. I can’t always pick him up. He plays sports, and practice ends at different times every day, so I often arrange to have an Uber to pick him up. To prevent any kidnappings or any other wrongdoings toward him, once I book the Uber driver, I call him/her to let them know where my son is waiting and what he’s wearing. I also let the driver know that I see that they’re currently on “whatever street” and that they’re close-by. (I only say this so that the driver is aware that I’m tracking him/her.) I also let the driver know that I’ve sent my son a screen shot along with his license plate info, car info, and a picture of him so my son can keep an eye out. This is my way of letting the driver know I have all his info, and I’m not afraid to hunt his/her ass down … LOL. Once my son is in the car, I call my son and keep him on the phone for as long as he allows me to (he’s a teenager so he easily gets embarrassed), and I have him call me as soon as he gets home.
Before we go to any place that we know strangers have easy access to kids (amusement parks, malls, etc), I take a picture of my kids before we leave the house. If something were to happen, I can easily text, email, or print the picture for police or staff to take a look at. It’s faster and more accurate than trying to remember what they’re wearing, especially under these circumstances.
I’ve taught all my kids to remember their full name, date of birth, address, and phone number. Although my kids know not to talk to strangers, I know that nice shiny things like the offer of candy and pets can easily make kids forget everything. During long car drives, I like to go over different scenarios on what they should or shouldn’t do.