Talking to Strangers


Posted by Mia Kelly, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 17-06-2010

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We are planning a family vacation in a few weeks and this is the first time that I haven’t worried about my kids being in the crowds and getting lost. At 14 my daughter is attached to her cell phone and after many trips to the mall with friends I’m sure she can navigate a theme park map and crowds. I’m know if she gets separated from us I will get a text faster than you can say Minnie Mouse! My son is 11 and although he doesn’t have a phone yet, he is also never far from me. He loves maps and I’m sure he will be leading the way through the land of Disney. Besides, we have prepared them well.

When our kids were little, every time we went somewhere I would ask my kids to remember what I, or whoever they were with, was wearing. I still ask this of my kids and any other kids who are with me especially on field trips. This way they could find me faster in a crowd and be less likely to get lost in the first place.

The other thing I asked my kids to do from a very young age is to talk to strangers.

Yes, you read that right, strangers. When we were at the mall having lunch or at a store I would ask them to look around and tell me who they would go to if they got lost or were in trouble. We would talk about the people we saw, who worked there and who didn’t, who made them feel safe and who didn’t. Then I would ask them to walk up to the person they picked and ask them what time it was. They would always be within my sight and ear shot. This lesson taught them to talk to strangers.

After all, if your kid is lost, the first thing they will need to do is ask for help from a stranger, and the sooner the better. We also have our kids order their own lunch at a restaurant. This is great practice in asking a stranger for something they need. Now that our daughter is going to high school this skill is mandatory for her to be able to get around and be confident talking with teachers and staff.

We have some basic rules in our family if you get lost. Stay put. Only move if it is the only way to get help. Ask help from a mom with kids whenever possible. Most moms will go to the ends of the earth to help you find your parent and God knows they don’t want another kid to manage so they probably wont kidnap you. Never leave the store, go in the back of the store etc. even with a security guard. So far this has worked for us. My kids have never gotten to the point of not finding me on their own usually because they remembered what I was wearing.

When we went on vacation one year, I bought my kids engraved dog tags that had our cell phone numbers on them. I bought them at the pet store out of a vending machine and put them on a chain. We used those for many years when they were too young to remember our numbers. I will even have my son wear one this vacation because even though he knows our numbers by heart, he may not remember them if he is in a panic.

The one thing we are sure to do the first day in the park is to set up a meeting point, not just in one place, but in every section of the park. That way we won’t have too far to go to find each other. A big landmark will be the best choice something we can see easily.

It has been fun watching our kids grow into confident people. I watch even my ultra clingy son wander happily to the electronic section of the store while I get something nearby and he calmly looks for me when he is done. Both of our kids are comfortable talking to people in stores and have learned to “trust their gut” about people. It’s a constant learning situation as they get older and go more places on their own but they are off to a good start.