Independence Day is right around the corner, and the air is already buzzing with excitement. As we stock up on the food for the long-awaited cookout and go all-in on the festive decorations, there is one thing that often slips our minds and gets lost in the overall hustle and bustle.
While the holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, it is also the time when we let our guard down. Huge crowds, parades, loud cheers, fireworks, and the overall hectic nature of the event – all of this create a perfect catalyst for things to go wrong.
As a parent, you know better than anyone else that during such grand events, you should not let your kids out of the radar even for one second.
As someone whose parents definitely lost them in the crowd during a family holiday, I’d say no parent can be a hundred per cent ready for something like that. But you should still take some precautions and educate yourself on the matter, so you can deal with such incidents in the most effective way or avoid them altogether.
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The Most Common Holiday Hazards for Kids
Let’s be honest. When it comes to children, everything seems like a potential hazard in the eyes of their parents. But unfortunately, some of those fears come true, and accidents do happen. Especially when you’re in the middle of a nationwide celebration.
There is somewhat of a “holy trinity” of the 4th of July traditions that carry not only an air of freedom and independence but also a whiff of trouble and danger:
- Parades. They are exciting, spectacular, and ever so crowded. It’s easy for children to get sucked into the swarm of people and get lost. It is also a perfect crime scene for pickpockets and kidnappers.
- Fireworks & sparkles. Needless to say – an extreme fire danger. While it is a special bonding moment for the family to light up the fireworks together, keep the children as far away from them as possible. You may treat them to a little sparkler to keep the magic going, but keep your eyes peeled until it’s out of their hands.
- Celebratory drinks. Things rarely end well when alcohol is involved. Take hundreds of people drinking at the same time, and you may have a potential newsworthy story. And probably not a happy one.
Beware: Missing Persons & Abduction Rates Are Higher During Holidays
It comes as no surprise that most of the missing person cases involve young children. According to the Statista Research Department, more than 73% of people who were reported missing in the US in 2019 were children under the age of 21.
However, a lot of such kids go missing not because of some convoluted abduction scenarios, but because they wander off and get lost or run away on their own after some sort of emotional distress. Holidays and meaningful events often trigger a highly emotional response in young minds, and they take off on a whim.
Nancy McBride, the executive director of Florida Outreach at NCMEC, told USA Today that out of 20,500 cases of missing youth they worked with, 90% of the cases were runaways.
Nancy also revealed that a considerable number of such cases revolved around technology since the kids were lured away through social media and messengers. This is why it is important to keep an eye on your child’s online activity and be aware of who they are talking to.
The silver lining here is that majority of such cases end with the child safely returning home. However, the taste of panic and anxiety will stay with both the parents and the child for years to come. So, do your best to not let things get to that point.
It is a whole different story, however, when the child gets kidnapped. Although it doesn’t happen that often, there are seasonal bursts when we can see the rise in such cases.
The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children (NISMART) reported that about 41% of yearly child abduction cases happen during the summer months. Therefore, it is important to be on high alert even (or especially) during vacation time.
Ensure Your Child’s Safety During the Holidays
Although the statistics are quite scary, don’t get too anxious about it. Things like that can be avoided if you know what to expect and how to act. You can be careful and still have a blast during the holiday. To make sure you have an accident-free weekend, you can take a few precautionary steps:
- Have a talk with your kid about safety. Not only you have to know what to do to protect your children, but they also need to know the basic course of action in emergency situations.
- Warn them about the fireworks. Being close to the fireworks can result not only in severe burns or mechanical trauma but also in serious hearing damage. All used-up fireworks should be soaked in water before you throw them out.
- Let them know how they can find you. Agree on a certain spot where you can meet up in case they get lost during the parade. Explain how to get in touch with the police if needed. Warn them not to trust random strangers on the street but rather find a store or some sort of service building where they can ask an employee for help.
- Make sure they know how to contact you. They should know your home address and your phone number as the back of their hand.
- Get a GPS tracker for their phone. These days, even little kids have their own phones that you can use to track down their location. Install a good GPS tracker on their phone and make sure location tracking is enabled on the device.
A Word of Advice from the Police Officers
Officers from a police department in California have shared a few simple tips that can help you find your way back to each other in case you and your child get separated in a large crowd.
First and foremost, write your phone number or other contact details on their arm and cover it up with a liquid band-aid. A simple sharpie can get smudged or rubbed off quickly, but the band-aid will create a lasting protective layer.
Another good piece of advice they gave is to take a picture of your kid in full height before leaving for any big events. Thus, if they somehow get lost, having a visual reference of what they were wearing that day will make it easier for the police to find them.
Having Fun Safely
We all want to relish our holiday time and create some wholesome memories to reminisce about during family dinners. To make sure the celebration goes smoothly, don’t forget to take care of safety beforehand.
Instruct your kids on an emergency plan of action, ensure they know how to contact you, and install a GPS tracking app on their phone – just in case. Have a safe 4th of July!