Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, something no parent ever wants to think about, as it is hands down one of scariest things out there. While you can’t be fearful each time you leave the house with your children, you can be aware and take steps to ensure that you are safe when in public with your children.
Shopping Cart Safety
I am a firm believer in either baby wearing young children or having them in the car seat, while I prefer baby wearing since your child is literally on you the entire time you are out, there will be a time when you switch to using the shopping cart. Always use the seat provided in the shopping cart and be sure to buckle your child in. As you shop be sure not to turn your back on your shopping cart and always keep either a hand on the cart or on your child’s hand or arm – this way you can ensure that no one else is touching your shopping cart (or child). When checking out I push the cart ahead of me, so I’m not emptying the cart and leaving my child vulnerable to the person behind me in line.
Parking Lot Safety
When possible try to shop during the day or at least select well-lit parking lots if are out during the evening hours. Try to park near the shopping carts when possible to limit how far you have to walk in the parking lot. Be sure to unload into your car with your child still in the cart and keep them there as you return to the cart, do not put your child in the car and then return the cart.
Be aware of your surroundings and if something feels off, you can always walk back into the store and ask for a manager or an escort to your car. A lot of stores even ask if you would like assistance while you are checking out – there is no shame in accepting this.
Keeping Car Doors Locked
When you go to return to your cart, be sure that you have hit lock on your car. Once you return to your car focus on getting your children in as quickly as possible. If you put them in on the passenger’s side be sure to re-lock the car as you walk around the car to get yourself in. If you use the driver’s side door, you can always fully get into the car, and lock the doors while you are buckling your child(ren). If you are sitting in your car for any reason – it is best to keep the doors locked and the car running – in case you need to leave quickly.
I know we live in a world where we are constantly on our phones, but the parking lot or store is not the place to be looking at your phone. Put your phone away, and be aware of your surroundings, look people in the eye – make it known that you are aware of their presence. Scan your surroundings and keep your eyes on your children. However your cell phone should be accessible, especially when walking to and from the car, if you should need to call someone in the event of an emergency.
If you do have a concealed carry permit and choose to arm yourself, the safest place to keep your handgun is on your body, not in a purse or diaper bag. It is easy to have these items out of arms reach, stolen, or have a child get into them. You can also choose to have pepper spray on your keys as a method of defense.
While these tips are focused on having younger children with you – you still want to keep a close watch on your older children as well. You may have them keep one hand on the cart, or keep them within arm’s reach from you while you shop. I suggest holding hands or having them hold on to the cart while in the parking lot, and practice getting in and out of the car as quickly as possible. You may even be able to have your older children help you with the shopping, moving groceries into the car, or helping buckle younger children. The more you involve them, the more willing they will be to stay with you and make your shopping trips easier.
While you don’t need to be paranoid when you go out, you do want to be aware. If someone is making you uncomfortable or asking a lot of questions about your child(ren) – you by no means need to keep engaging with them. If something feels “off” follow your instinct and seek a store manager, employee, or security. It is always better to be safe then have something happen, that could have been prevented.