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Time Week 9

I’ve missed a week or two, but I was just focusing my time on getting Liam ready for school. 

Speaking of school…He loves it!  You can just see it in his face when I ask him about his day.  He loves his teacher and is making many friends.  It’s just what I dreamed it would be for him with one exception.

A week ago today Liam went missing at dismissal.  The third day of school.  Like, gone for 40 minutes type of missing.  I stopped breathing for those 40 minutes.

I went to pick up him up (we do drive up pick up and only that) and the teacher couldn’t find him when I pulled up to the pick up spot.  My heart jumped and I was asked to pull up to the handicap spot and wait until they swept the school.  It was merely a minute when I heard over the intercom asking for Liam to come to the office.  That’s when I went into panic mode.  First, I knew he didn’t know what the office was and if he did, he wouldn’t be able to find it on the third day of school.  

I don’t think I can go into all details here without getting really upset again.  So, all in all some of the kindergarten teachers found him in a nearby neighborhood with 3 other older students who were trying to help him find his home.  He slipped through the protective system and now I personally pick up from the office every day.  We found him and that’s all that’s important to me.  He wasn’t hurt and didn’t really know that he was lost.  It wasn’t his own teacher’s fault but the fault of the system they have in play at the school.  We’ve tried not to make a big deal about it, but definitely have reevaluated what we’ve taught him about safety and what we haven’t. 

That’s what I wanted to spend my time today in giving you safety pointers to teach your children. I had to learn it the hard way that I didn’t teach Liam some of these things, but only assumed that he would know better.  If I can make it easier for you then that’s one less child that has a chance to go “missing”. 

Now, I’ve googled this topic and I found sites with 71 tips for child safety and 42 things your child needs to know.  Those of us who have children know that we could go on and on with all of the things they NEED to know, but I’m only going to highlight some of the basics.  These are not from any statics or official safety site.  Just from one mom to another.  Use your best judgement and do what’s best for your child. 

18 months-3 years

  • Start teaching your child who they are.  Teach them their full name.
  • Sing to them your phone number. It’s proven that most people remember information better when it’s in song form.  Make up a little ditty to help them know what it is.

3-5 years

  • Teach them their birth date.  Kids usually love to talk about their birthday so this one should be an easy one.  
  • Have them memorize their address.  Break it up.  First have them memorize their street address then city and state once they’ve gotten down the first part.  
  • Before your child starts school, drive (or walk) back and forth to the school frequently so they can get their bearings.  Point out land marks or signs.  Always go to and from the same way when they are in the car.  
  • Find out what the school’s policies and rules are for safety and talk about them with your child at home.
  • Be literal with your child when it comes to a plan.  Give them simple and easy instructions of what will happen when you drop them off and pick them up.   
  • If you are going to pick them up or someone else will pick them up from school, give them a heads up if you can.  Children thrive on routine and that alone makes them feel safe.  
  • DO NOT write your child’s name on their back pack.  It’s easy for any stranger to read it and call them by that name.  Make a small tag to hang off a zipper or handle that not easy to read when standing above the child.  Better yet, use something like a luggage tag that has a fold or flap over the information.  Simply write the child’s name, phone number where you can be reached and their address.  
  • Talk to them about who they can go to in the school if they need help.  Teachers, principal, office staff and nurse.  As a mom, get to know the other teachers in your child’s grade.  Introduce your child to them.  
  • Unless they walk home with you or siblings, stress to your child that they are NEVER to walk out of the school with the exception of recess or they are with their whole class. 
  • Assume your child knows nothing.  They only know something because you’ve taught it to them.  This does not mean that you treat your child like they’re stupid.
  • Once you taught your child a principle, fact or tip, reinforce it by asking them questions about it.  Quiz them every now and then to keep them on their toes.  Make sure it’s sinks in. 

I truly could go on and on and I would love to hear all of your safety tips that you’ve maybe learned over the years.  Please, please, please take the time to teach your children what you think they might need to know before they start school.  Even if it seems like overkill, better to be safe than sorry.  Not to be dramatic, but serious…it literally could be life or death.   

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  • Reply
    September 5, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    How scary. We so glad Liam was found and safe and back to the loving arms of his parents. Good tips.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Amy, I was terrified for you when I found out about this. This must have been very hard for you to write about. I had a lump in my throat just reading about this….

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    thanks for the safety tips! I had a similar experience with my oldest when he was 4 at Disney World once…DISNEY WORLD! Like the biggest freaking place you can lose your child ever! Luckily, the Disney staff was amazing and used walkie talkies to coordinate a search and we found him about 30 minutes later. But definitely the scariest day of my life!

  • Reply
    Kara Miller
    September 9, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Oh my gosh Amy! This made my blood run cold. How did this happen? At the schools I have worked, we have had strict guidelines and systems in place where the teacher sees each child off individually. Those must have been the scariest 40 minutes of your life! I am so sorry this happened and SO grateful that your sweet boy was and is safe!

  • Reply
    Family Way Doula
    September 14, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Tags can get torn off bookbags. A easier solution for older elementary kids is to write the child's info on the INSIDE of the backpack, between the attachment points for the straps. Very easy to find, but hard to spot without someone noticing the attention. Also, for younger kids who don't answer phone calls, etc, I've known parents that write THEIR name instead of their child's. So, if the kid does get lost, their helper/rescuer has more information than "Mommy" (especially important if you and your child have different surnames). The school has the parents' names on record, so if a Transformers backpack gets left on the schoolyard and the name inside says "Judith Smith 555-1010" instead of "Johnny Smith 555-1010" it's not going to cause any confusion, but if Johnny gets lost, and the Block Parent is trying to calm him down and call YOU to let you know he's safe, it's a big help to know who to ask for. Plus, if a nasty person manages to steal a peek at the name, they are less likely to be able to lure a kid away if they don't know their name.

    I TOTALLY feel your terror. When my eldest was in his first full week of school, there was supposedly a supervised pick-up. My bus was delayed by construction so myself, and about five other parents arrived late. Their children were milling around with a teacher nearby, but no sign of my son. Oh, and did I mention that we'd just escaped an abusive situation a year earlier by leaving the city and going into hiding? And that we'd JUST moved back to the same city our abuser lived in? And that the school had a photo of him and instructions to call the cops if he was seen? Because, yah… all those things. And yet… no sign of my son. I tried to stay calm and approached the teacher, because, maybe he was inside, or had to go potty or something totally normal and reasonable. The response I got? "Ummm.. WHO?" This was HIS TEACHER! There were FOURTEEN KIDS in her class and she didn't recognize the name of the child with the abduction alert on his file??? WTF! I whipped out the picture I carried and she went "oh, he walked home."

    I flipping LOST IT! Freaked out. Threatened her job. Threatened to sue. To press charges of neglect. Demanded to speak to the principal, who was, thankfully, visibly appalled and red with rage. She called one of the older classes out early (the school was k-6)and sent the 11 year olds to scour the school building, while she, I and all the staff available (except his actual teacher who was told to man the phones)searched the school grounds and then spread out onto the neighboring blocks. We eventually found him hiding behind a dumpster because he'd heard an unfamiliar man calling his name. Turns out that the supervised pick-up happened, then the students who hadn't been collected were called back into the school while the teacher notified the office that they would be playing outside if any of the parents called to say they were delayed. At THAT point, my on had gotten separated from his classmates, and had gone around the school, trying to rap on a classroom window to ask a teacher to let him back in (smart kid), but couldn't reach. Then he'd heard the man call his name and hid.

    The school completely overhauled dismissal procedure after that, and the principal made a point to personally meet him at his classroom door and walk him out to myself or my roommates everyday thereafter; but I still moved him to another school as soon as I was able.

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