Amusement Park Safety
Don't Worry, Be Happy
As more families visit amusement parks over the summer, parents are understandably concerned about the safety of their children. The good news is that serious safety problems for children at amusement parks are extremely rare.
Parks are designed and operated with children in mind, there are usually lots of people around, children are rarely left unattended, and employees who can offer assistance are never far off. People must pass through monitored access points when arriving or departing, which deter troublemakers. Finally, amusement parks have extensive experience with children who are temporarily separated from their parents - so they have systems in place for making those separations as brief and panic-free as possible.
Your family's safety practices and teachings can make these excellent odds even better. Though many parents teach rules such as "never talk to strangers," the single most important skill for a child who is lost or needs help is the ability to talk with strangers. Seeking assistance, describing one's situation, giving a parent's phone number, asking advice, knowing when and how to say no - all these interactions require the child to speak with strangers.
Practice Talking to Strangers
To ask for help, a child has to know how. Anna McDonnell is a remarkable woman and mother who has developed innovative programs for teaching children. She regularly encourages her seven-year-old son to approach strangers, giving him small challenges such as, "Can you find out what time it is?" or "Can you get directions to the nearest frozen yogurt place?" Then she stands back and observes as he selects a person to ask.
Afterward, they discuss why he chose who he chose, how the exchange went, if he felt comfortable with the person he spoke with, if that person was comfortable with his approach, and so on. Her son has safely rehearsed all kinds of encounters with people.
Could it be that this boy who actually approaches strangers in public is less likely to be a victim than someone taught never to talk to them? Absolutely yes.
Sound Safety Tips
One mother of five explained the anxiety she feels when they visit a crowded amusement park: "I'm the only one not having fun because I'm suffering with fear about losing one of my kids." Here are some practical steps parents can take to reduce anxiety in the event a child is lost:
Until a child is old enough to understand what predatory strategies look like, old enough and confident enough to resist them, assertive enough to seek help, and powerful enough to enforce the word "No," he is too young to be his own protector. Thankfully, few places know this better than amusement parks.
More on: Outdoor Safety