So Bob and Sandie stopped off at the busy truck stop as part of their road trip, four kids in tow. One of those kids was 14-year-old Maci, a friend of their 15-year-old daughter Anna.
The hungry group placed their order, and then Maci announced she had to use the restroom, leaving her cell phone at the table. The food came-but Maci had not come back.
Her hotdog and pile of fries were getting cold while everyone else ate. Finally Anna decided to go into the restroom. Maci was nowhere in sight.
Bob, Sandie and Anna searched outside while the two other kids, seven and 10, stayed at the table, and saw no sign of Maci. Nobody at the crowded diner had seen her either.
And she left her cell phone behind, so there was no way to communicate with her.
Imagine the nightmare that Maci's parents will go through when they get that phone call...
What could Bob and Sandie have done to prevent Maci's abduction?
The challenge is the idea of an adult accompanying a teenager to the bathroom, but Maci wouldn't have been put off if Anna had been her accompaniment.
- #1 Keep children within a constant eyeshot. Quick story, local summer beach we go to doesn't allow kids to have lifejackets. WHAT? Stupid right? The towns reasoning is, they want the parents to watch and accompany their kids at all times. They feel the lifejacket means the parents won't watch their kids. There is some validity to that reasoning. I understand. Watch your kids. But the lifejacket thing SUCKS. I'm talking about YOU Gloucester, MA.
- Parents' contact information should be on the kids.
- Kids should be in bright clothes so they are easily spotted in crowds. Wearing whistles won't hurt, either. Just make sure the child is old enough to be responsible with the whistle.
- If you're inside a building, position yourself, if possible, so that all exits are in your line of vision.
- It's unrealistic to hover over older kids every minute, so drill into them a plan for meeting up at a later time and location. It will help if every child has a cell phone with the latest apps for locating them or for them to hit one button to activate an emergency response and location technology. My kids have GPS devices on them.
- It's okay to spell out adverse consequences if a child wanders off. "No dessert tonight" can work wonders, though threats don't absolve parents from keeping a tough eye on their kids during vacation.
- I was recently at an airport and saw a woman attached to her toddler by a "leash." Don't worry about what strangers think should you decide to use a "leash," though I definitely recommend something less conspicuous than the chest strap this woman was using.